** Spoiler Alert **
WATCH!…Ozon’s films never disappoint.
The movie will be released in November and I hope that you will have a chance to see it. I saw it at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and it was above my expectation. I read one horrible review the day before I went to see it, guess, it is now irrelevant.
In 2013, Ozon gave us Jeune et Jolie (2013), a story about a 17 year-old decided to be a hire-girl, she advertised herself on the internet dating site, there was no pimp involved, all under her own volition and control. And she was making good money, which was not her goal, especially her family belonged to the upper middle class… (You can read my review I wrote last year).
In 2014, Ozon’s Une Nouvelle Amie(The New Girl Friend) explored human’s sexual fantasy, desire, identity, orientation, taboo, and behaviour, and they were never simple. On the surface, the story seemed to be fairly straight-forward; however, the more you think about it, the more complex it becomes. If you believe any of the above are clean-cut, black and white, then my advice is to save yourself being annoyed and disgusted.
Laura(Isild Le Besco) died, and her best friend, Claire(Anaïs Demoustier) is delivering the eulogy at the funeral services. She describes their childhoods, adolescent years, first boyfriends, and marriages…they were blood sisters. Laura’s death has driven Claire into depression. Her husband, Gilles(Raphaël Personnaz) encourages her to get out of the house, and perhaps should honour her promises to Laura: visit Laura’s husband David(Romain Duris), and help to take care of her god-daughter, Lucie.
Laura gathers her strength and goes for her routine jog. She stops at Laura’s house and hesitates if she should go in, worrying about David’s state. She knocks, no response, she knocks again, and realizes the door is unlocked. She enters, calling for David. On the sofa, back to her is a woman with shoulder length blond hair, comforting a baby. Claire asks the woman if… the woman turns, and Claire is shock to see David’s dressed in Laura’s clothes, with full makeup. Shock becomes insult, she calls David a pervert. As she calms down, David offers her an explanation that what he does is for Lucie to grow up with both a father and mother, at least in appearance.
As their relation evolves, Claire abandons her knee-jerk prejudice and starts to accept David in woman’s clothes: Laura’s. She even helps him with hair and mark-up to be more passable. Unconsciously, one day, she styles his wig exactly like Laura’s. She calls David female persona, Virginia. Eventually, they become BFF, and hang out shopping and doing girl-friends’ stuff.
She hides the secret from her husband, cause she knows Gilles will not understand, as he is a typical straight guy. So she lies and tells him that she has been seeing a long lost friend from high school: Virginia.
While they become closer and closer, and spending one weekend alone at David’s in-law summer home, Gilles starts to suspect something is going on, especially he finds out Claire has been lying.
He confronts her, even though David encourages her to tell the truth, under stress she blurbs out the secret she is withholding that David is gay. Surprisingly, her husband accepts it and saying that’s really no big deal. He says he gets gay, in fact, he is less sure about lesbian. Before that, David told Claire that he was 100% heterosexual, and he just enjoyed being in woman’s clothing.
At a tennis club, they are playing a game of threesome, David teams up with Claire and against Gilles. They finish and hit the shower room. Claire suddenly has an uneasy feeling, and sneaks into the men’s locker room to look for her husband…two men are kissing each other under the showers, and one is caressing the other; she shakes her head, and realizes her imagination and jealousy has taken over her.
There is an undeniable attraction between Claire and David, or maybe Claire and Virginia, the question is how each deals with their pent up desire for the other.
Let me not give it all away: there will be a rendez-vous, an accident, an amourous denouement that opens up all sort of interpretations.
Duris did an amazing job transforming himself into Vriginia, I could tell he lost weight to fit in the role (different body size in Populaire (2012)). He was just as convincing as a cross-dresser as Jared Leto‘s transvestite Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club(2013). Ozon further delineate a cross-dresser from a drag queen when Claire and Virginia went to a gay bar. The song lip-synced by the drag queen on stage became the theme song of the film: Je suis une femme.
On the surface it looks like a story about David, and how the lost of his wife triggered a fetish he once had before his marriage. IMO, this film is really about the relationship between Laura and Claire: the unfinished desire for the other. It was apparent that Claire had a much stronger feeling towards Laura: uneasiness when Laura started fooling around with boys.
David’s cross-dressing and femininity created many laughs, but it was fairly linear regarding his behaviour, i.e., he really liked to dress up, but he still like to make love with woman, and never had any desire for other men. However, Claire’s sexual identity and orientation is much more complex and convoluted. She was married, but she loved Laura. This echo what Gilles had said after Claire exposed David’s secret: he didn’t understand lesbianism.
As I have always said, Ozon’s is a master of layering his stories, i.e., keep peeling, cause human society and its members’ behaviours are never black and white!