Donne-moi la main (Give Me Your Hand)
Directed by Pascal-Alex Vincent
Nearly all films about twins I’ve seen bear a homoerotic subtext, or even, ur-text. Brothers of the Head comes to mind as a particularly interesting example of the type, though the twins in that movie are Siamese. My mini-review on Criticker is here.
Robert Mulligan’s creepy, gothic thriller, The Other, is a counter-example. The source for that movie, an eponymous book by Thomas Tryon, fits the pattern better, or, at least my horny high-school age self thought so when I read it, twice.
The idea of twins-in-gay-porn continues to titillate. Identical Czech muscle boys, Elijah and Milo Peters, who shoot with Bel Ami, are currently the favorites. Apparently, they’re lovers in real life, too. Salon breathlessly calls the twins theme, gay porn’s most shocking taboo. Really? More shocking than eating shit? How shocking can twincest be when there are so many movies suggesting it and real twins doing it and shooting it? What’s shocking is that there isn’t more of it around.
In that article, writer Thomas Rogers call the popularity of this theme “surprising.” He uses the word, “shocking”, several times, along with “disconcerting” and “disturbing”. I think what really bothers everyone is that they seem to be having a really good time and are completely guilt-free about it.
The twins in Give Me Your Hand don’t have a really good time at all although they do fuck around a lot, just not with each other.
Rather than suggesting the ultimate in narcissism, the twins’ codependency engenders an existential crisis marked by rivalries, resentments, sexual one-upmanship and violent intimacies. Instead of an encouragement to, Go fuck yourself, these twins seem to be saying to one another, Kill yourself, or I’ll do it.
Generically, Give Me Your Hand is a road movie. The twins hike and hitchhike from France to a small town in Spain to attend their mother’s funeral. Dad is left behind. There’s no explanation given as to the cause of death or why Dad is staying home and we’re offered these details only in pieces as the film progresses. (Hint: This is one way we know this is an art film.) At the outset, all we know is that, here are two twins walking somewhere (in the initial shot, the camera dollies up a train track as the boys walk on and beside it.) and that they’re obviously very close. We know this because as one twin, whom we find out later is Quentin, walks behind his brother, he grasps his shirttail, much as a child would, or a school-age girlfriend. In another shot, a closeup of the two in profile, Antoine carries his brother on his back. This type of shot we’ll also see repeated with a couple variations throughout the movie.
Before this shot, the film opens with a curious animated prologue in which two boys, not obviously twins and possibly lovers, race to beat a train at a crossing. One boy hesitates, the other leaps over the guardrail and narrowly misses getting hit by the train. The boy who hesitated fears his friend is dead, but is angry when he sees him crowing triumphantly on the other side. A tussle ensues, a passive/aggressive scenario that will recur several times during the course of the movie proper. After the animated prologue, the road-movie narrative begins, which is basically a string of sexual misadventures in which the boys test each other and make one another jealous, with one exception. In the movie’s sole sequence that could be described as idyllic, the twins are picked up by two young French girls and they pair off, fucking around naked in the trees. The musical soundtrack for this sequence is wistful and the tracking profile shot of the twins that ends it is a superimposition over a static shot of the sun setting on a farm. It’s such a contrast with the other fraught sexual encounters that it almost comes off as cloying. When they don’t have to share, I guess they’re fine.
Later we see Quentin sketching anime-esque characters. This hobby is one way we’re given to distinguish between the twins. Art vs. Animus, maybe. Another is that Antoine has a cut over his left brow. As the movie moved on, I figured that Quentin had given it to him during one of their many fights. We can also consider Antoine the leader and Quentin the follower, or perhaps even call them The Beloved and The Lover, if a twisted version of that mystery.
At one point, an Algerian boy, whom Quentin later has sex with, comments, Wow, you and your brother are so different. Quentin responds, Yes, he’s the one with friends. I surmised that one of the reasons he has sex with Hakim is to do something that his brother can’t emulate. So, there’s introversion vs. extroversion set up as a binary, as well as gay vs. straight and perhaps the relationship between those two sets.
Here’s a shot/reverse shot sequence of the two boys showing Antoine bathing in a brook and Quentin observing. The night before Antoine had sex with a girl that Quentin had sex with earlier in the day in the back of a van:
The gloating and preening evident in Antoine’s body language contrasts with the recriminatory look his brother is giving him from the shore, without either taking eyes off the other, of course.
The road-movie framework provides very little narrative drive — we can’t really know, or even guess, what will happen when the twins reach their destination and I didn’t care all that much. Despite that, the film feels as emotionally taut as a thriller — the symbolic weight of Clouzot’s The Wages Of Fear came to mind as I watched — made even more so by the lack of explicit foreshadowing. All the tension is created within the sexual vignettes and the specificity of each one. In one, the twins having been separated, Antoine is basically molested in his sleep by a predatory mother-figure. In a panic, he flees the scene in the morning to find his brother. So near the end, the twins’ hierarchy has been reversed and Antoine must approach his brother as the Lover.
So the pleasures of Give Me Your Hand are primarily philosophical and suggestive. That might explain the complaints of a one-star review on IMDb: “…very slow moving and only has roughly 20 lines of dialog in the whole movie!” Well, yes, but for me all to the good.
And if you watch it expecting a gay love story or twincest you’ll also be disappointed.
Still, this screen grab in a single shot shows more of the real loss and disappointment felt when getting ditched than any other gay-themed movie I’ve watched lately:
It also shows how much director Pascal-Alex Vincent gets out of subtle facial expressions and body language paired with straightforward framing. He also pulls a lot out of his two leads, Alexandre and Victor Carril, whose performances are equally and eerily steely and focused.
You can rent, download or buy Give Me Your Hand on Amazon.