If France’s two most recent wide-release gay films are anything to judge by, gay Paris’ gay life consists entirely of tortured hustlers and their johns who divide their time equally between engaging in rough sex for hire and moping under dim lighting in ponderous silence.
I wasn’t planning to review Jacques Nolot’s Before I Forget (Avant que j’oublie), a plodding parade of miserablism that made its Canadian debut at TIFF 2007 and is now available on DVD, but the plot and style is so similar to the more recent I Dreamt Under the Water (J’ai rêvé sous l’eau) by writer-director Hormoz that the comparison couldn’t be avoided.
In Nolot’s Film, the writer-director also stars as a 58-year-old HIV-positive writer living out the end of his life while making intermittent attempts at finishing a manuscript. He spends his days scamming meals and money from his old acquaintances while comparing stories of the mecs-à-louer they’ve picked up.
This could have all been engrossing, but the 108-minute movie has perhaps 15 pages of dialogue separated by murky silent scenes in which nothing much happens at all. The point is painfully tedious 10 minutes in.
Hormoz approaches Paris’ rent boys from a different angle. His young protagonist, Antonin, disengages from friends, school and music after his secret crush and bandmate Alex dies of a drug overdose in the backroom of a nightclub. Meanwhile, his broke mother moves to the country leaving him to explore his gay side and eke out a living at the same time as a hustler.
Then he falls in love with a manic pixie girl and I lose all interest.
In contrast to Nolot’s film, the point is never once clear but the effect is the same: the viewer wondering why he’s watching this. Is the point that drugs are bad? That homosexuality is transitory? Cap the film off with an ending that stops the film before any of its plots are resolved and you’ve got a pointless disaster.