(TORONTO, ON) – French Cinema Above and Beyond. My experience with French cinema has always been very rich. I have been watching it for some 40 years now, and I have been fortunate to avoid the Francophone clunkers. On a general level, it beats the pants off the Hollywood sausage factory.
What relevance to life does Pirates of the Caribbean have except for entertaining six year-olds?
Where did my French film addiction start? Perhaps it was with Demain Le Fin de Monde in the 1970’s. It’s about a worker in a cereal factory who wrote personal messages and stuffed them in cereal boxes. This hardly equates with the inanity of Hollywood films.
Avoiding further polemics Les Nuits D’Éte from France borders on the absurd.
Notary Michel is married to Hélène and they have a son. It could be an ideal family situation. However, Michel has a little country Estate Epicéas that is a transvestite nightclub in the evenings.
Michel is prone to dressing in women’s clothing, yet still can make passionate love to poor Hélène who has absolutely no idea what’s going on at Epicéas.
In the midst of all this, the Algerian conflict is raging and there are strong hints the French boys are cannon fodder for the Arabs. Remember that France not only lost Vietnam but Algeria as well.
Hèléne speaks her mind at an association of notaries meeting, complaining about the Algerian conflict and is booed off the podium, completely blowing Michel’s chance of being elected as President of the Chamber of Notaries.
At this point the film delves deeply into the riotous goings on at Epicéas, which just seems to lose touch with normalcy and descends into decadence. It gets to the point where the viewer is comfortable with decadence and treats it as normalcy.
How devious French film making can be. This makes Cabaret look like Sesame Street.
Men dressed as women and carrying on a normal life as we might know it, mostly in a lush nightclub setting, full of straights enjoying the so-called perversion.
Hélène sniffs something is amiss and crashes Epicéas. She catches Michel in the act, all dressed up like a woman. No sweat off her back as she ends up back home dressing him up as a woman with no acrimony or accusations.
A full and decadent film with a perfect soundtrack, mostly from the 1950’s, which is the era of the film. You won’t ever see a North American film like this so suck it all up. You’ll either be totally disgusted or somewhat comfortable.
Michel (Guillame de Tonquédec) plays the role naturally, but Hélène (Jeanne Balibar) is a bit more ambivalent, at times displaying a certain masculinity and accepting gender confusion.
I wonder if there is a difference between Michel and Hélène. A subtle challenge launched at you at the end of the film. (Summer Nights (Les Nuits D’Éte), France, 2014, North American Premiere, 104 minutes, Director Mario Fanfani, Part of Toronto Cinéfranco Film Festival, 11 April 2015, 7:30 pm, Bloor Hot Docs Theatre).