★ | Man At Bath
Emmanuel is a man of very few words, a hustler and the live-in lover of Omar.
They live in an apartment in a tower block in Gennevilliers, a working-class suburb of Paris. When Omar announces that he is going to New York for a week to work on a film project, an angry Emmanuel punishes him by brutally sexually assaulting him. After that, as Omar goes to leave, he tells Emmanuel to move out of the apartment by the time he returns from his trip.
Emmanuel wiles his way seemingly having sex with half of the men in his neighbourhood, some for money, and others just for the hell of it. It’s hard to tell as he is one very emotionless cold fish. He does have the idea of trying to contact Omar in New York but as he is so detached from real life, he somehow thinks that the only way to do this is by the defunct Telegram system.
Omar, on the other hand, is traipsing around New York videoing his friend Chiara Mastrioniani (playing herself) promoting her latest movie. Along the way, he manages to pick up a skinny Canadian film student who becomes an obsession for both his sexual appetite and his camera too.
Despite trying to desperately read between the lines trying to discover any deep or disguised existentialist meaning, that sadly is the total sum of it. The movie is the latest from French filmmaker Christophe Honoré whose somewhat indulgent output in recent years has gone from quite bizarre (Beloved) to downright bad (Let My People Go) and this one fits neatly in both camps.
I’m not sure if the whole affair was meant to be a vehicle to ‘legitimise’ the gay porn star Francois Sagat’s move into mainstream films because if it was, it was a complete and utter failure. I kept thinking back to Manhola Dargis of The New York Times when she once wrote about Janet Jackson: ‘how can I put it gently? She is a woman of very limited facial expressions!’ Ms Dargis has evidently not seen Mr Sagat on the screen, as he has none!
When the very short muscular Sagat strips his clothes off every other scene despite his erect penis he fails to imbue the act with any sexuality at all, which doesn’t make this even a half-decent piece of soft porn.
Evidently, the whole project had been commissioned by the writer/director Olivier Assayas on behalf of the Theatre de Gennevilliers, and Honore took his own inspiration from a local Impressionist painting entitled Man at Bath. The end result is hardly something that would make me want to visit Gennevilliers, or even sit through another Honore movie in the near distant future.