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  Water Drops on Burning Rocks Steamy, Then
Year: 2000
Director: François Ozon
Stars: Bernard Giraudeau, Malik Zidi, Ludivine Sagnier, Anna Levine
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Leopold (Bernard Giraudeau) brings back a young man, Franz (Malik Zidi) to his apartment for a drink, though there is a tension in the air as he sits down with him. He asks him how old he is, and Franz replies he is twenty, then posits that Leopold must be fifty when prompted, though he quickly says this is because of his personality rather than his looks, which the older man likes to hear. Then he shows him the bedroom, and they get onto the subject of partners, and how Leopold lost interest in his, despite how compatible they were otherwise. One thing leads to another, and soon he is asking Franz if he has ever slept with a man, and the unspoken enquiry, would he like to, arises...

François Ozon was a tyro director when he made these works around the turn of the millennium, gaining interest not just at home in France but across the world for his sexual and relationship dramas, often with a homosexual twist to make things interesting for him. Maybe he was courting comparisons with another European director who was out and proud, and made the same mind of low budget, carefully designed movies when he chose to adapt a play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, one of the earliest the German ever penned, to make a more or less single set production where sexuality was not only important, it was defining to the degree that it could make or break you.

This was not so much asking if it were wise to allow your sexuality to control your emotions and intellect, more accepting that 'twas ever thus, and we were in the thrall of what we found attractive in others, to the point of it triggering our potential destruction. There was no happy ending here, examining four characters who let their libido make their decisions for them, and that would appear to be a foolish path to take on this evidence: even those who had sex with one another purely for fun were going to be punished sooner or later. In that way, considering it was a story that brought us straight, gay and transsexual individuals, you may regard it as curiously conservative in its conclusions.

Or it may have been the case of the cliché of gay drama, that everyone ends up miserable, taking over; certainly in Fassbinder he revelled in the suffering of his characters, though that was not quite the Ozon way, as we discovered over the course of the rest of his oeuvre, though he remained fascinated by the different paths love could take in all their multifaceted possibilities. Here for the first half hour of what was a fairly brief picture we followed Leopold and Franz, German folks speaking French, jumping ahead from their initial hook up to when they are more familiar, to the extent that Franz has moved into the apartment. We notice that now Leopold has sated his lusts, or at least can whenever he wants, he orders his boyfriend around like a servant and has no qualms about criticising him, almost bullying.

Then Anna (Ludivine Sagnier, Ozon's discovery though she had been acting since a child) enters the place, she being Franz's old girlfriend who still hopes he will marry her and give her babies, she too having a rather conservative outlook that is offset by the amount of nude scenes she was required to perform. It is said nudity is the cheapest special effect available to the low budget filmmaker, assuming they can persuade the actors to part with their clothes, and while Giraudeau and Zidi appeared in the buff too, it was Sagnier who looked ahead to her most indelible role in Ozon's Swimming Pool when she was starkers most often for his camera. If that's what it took for the director to get noticed, he evidently was not proud in that respect, and many checked this out seeking a romp and finding a sobering examination of the things we get up to when ensuring we won't be alone, and there's no guarantee they will succeed anyway. It wasn't all deadly serious: the dance routine to a German pop record was unexpectedly joyous.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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