"It is never my style to defend a movie just because people disagree with me. Yet looking through all the comments that slam the movie for having no plot, and even those who like the movie are unable to provide any solid reasons other than the encrypted deeply moving or honest, I feel the need to give my two sense. So bear with me. Let me first say that I don't think Presque Rien is the best gay movie ever made. Looking at the cover with two naked young guys, I expect it will offer little more than "tasteful" eye candy. But I came away feeling this is a lot better than I expect, and for the exact reason so many other complain about, the plot. The story unfolds with Mathieu, after suffering from depression; revisit his family summerhouse to pull his life together. It is the same place where two summers ago he met his first boyfriend, someone he just broke up with. Upon arriving, Mathieu pick up a wild cat that's roaming on the street. In the flashback, when Mathieu arrives his family summerhouse for vacation he "picked up" a wild child, Cédric, who basically lives on the street. Instantly we can draw the connection between Cédric and the cat: Mathieu said to the cat "You are cute but you stink". It reminds us in the flashback how he rehearses his introduction line to Cédric to the mirror: "I must admit you are pretty cute". After Mathieu bathed the cat he said you are my little prince charming, just as the carefree and attractive Cédric would be to any gay teenager falling in love for the first time. But there is the less fortune comparison: like the cat, Cédric, as much as he wants Mathieu, is unable to reciprocate the kind of affection Mathieu needs in a relationship. There is one key scene I find surprising that no one mentions is when Mathieu and Cédric visited a historic ruin. Architecture student Mathieu is interested in reading the background of the site but Cedric is only interested in a private intimate moment together - to him it is just a bunch of rock. Mathieu complained that Cédric has single track of mind and he doesn't like it when Cédric is like that. It is a telling sign of the difference between the two and how problematic the relationship could be. However, Mathieu (and many audience I bet) are so charmed by the good-looking and sexually uninhibited Cédric that he (and us) are blinded to the fact that Cédric is unable to bond with Mathieu in a non-physical way. Recall that Cédric was totally oblivious to any of the Mathieu's emotional problem when Mathieu's psychiatrist asked him, except that Mathieu is not interested in having sex in the past month, again only in a physical way. The ending, so many of the comments have criticized, is actually very satisfying for me. While it seems contrive that Mathieu should reach out for his boyfriend's ex, it is not hard to understand what draws him to Pierre. Cédric doesn't believe in family and would rather be a renegade than being introduced to Mathieu's father. But outside of his house, we see the domestic Pierre helping out his mother in setting up dinner. Mathieu himself longingly browsed through the family photos, including his pain-in-the-ass sister, the first thing he arrived his family home in years. When Mathieu asked Pierre why he didn't have his own place, Pierre as-a-matter-of-factly said "Why? To be All Alone?" The Mathieu who impulsively moved in with Cédric to a total strange city can certainly understand that sentiment. (When Pierre asked Mathieu if he think he is lame, Mathieu replied that he thinks he seems "really together") The movie concluded with Mathieu and Pierre coming across a lonely child in the beach (presumably his dad is also present but he was intentionally excluded from the frame). Pierre showed his paternal side by teaching the kid how to play football/soccer as Mathieu knowingly looking on. In the flashback, the naive and love-struck Mathieu was totally captivated by Cédric as he sang and danced in the buff at the beach, the post-depression, wiser and more mature Mathieu (something Pierre didn't fail to notice), once again sitting on a beach, now saw the side of Pierre that he knows he wouldn't find in Cédric. I don't dare to say my interpretation is THE interpretation. But I hate to see people dismiss scenes as pointless and boring, went on to accuse the movie has no plot and provides no answer when the very scenes they dismiss provide the clues they are looking for. For that, I feel I have to put down my view."
OPEN YOUR MIND
henry clark | chicago, il United States | 04/20/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I think some of the reviewers of this film were too busy waiting for nudity,sex scenes, and simple exposition. This is NOT the french version of "Beautiful Thing" or a soft core romance novel type movie. It is challenging only because it moves away from the "coming out" or "cute boy" genres of gay cinema.
All the characters are realized wonderfully with a minimum of dialogue. The use of silence is a tool that makes you focus your mind and ask questions of the movie. Nothing is pat.
This is a movie that treats it characters (and the audience) with a respect one rarely sees in gay themed movies (one need only compare this movie with simplistic dreck like "The Broken Hearts Club" to understand the difference between respecting your audience versus pandering to it).
This film makes you focus on a young man who is dealing not just with his nascent homosexuality but also serious family issues and a lack of direction in his own life. All these things add to a well-thought out character. And the time jumps gives the viewer the oppurtunity to see how that character progresses (and regresses).
It is not a simple film. But it is a very,very good one."
henry clark | 09/12/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Please note that the dvd version Amazon is selling has large distracting subtitles which invade the scenes and detract from the movie. There is no way to turn them off! This is a major problem and you should know about it before you purchase the dvd."
This is Real Life!
henry clark | 02/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie left me bewildered and thrilled at the same time. I can't stop thinking about it ever since; about these two characters, and about this magical thing that happens to them at a key point of their emotional development. I felt much sorrow and I was very deeply moved by this movie; but then, isn't it what an outstanding movie is supposed to do to you - grab your feelings and make you think?
I really had no problem with the internal timing (3 different periods of the story that we keep jumping back and forth into) - to me, it appeared fluid and I always understood in which time-frame the story was and why we had jumped. This "broken chronology" did not confuse me, rather I found it added much in depth by showing a violent contrast in the main character : the innocent and playful adolescent vs the wounded young adult he'd become.
Because this is what I found powerful in this film : by depicting a young man and his coming-of-age (this really is a character study, Mathieu's first love and young adulthood), the director touches to essential questions that lie within each of us : the loss of innocence, the coming out of childhood into adulthood, the uniqueness of first love.
A very subtle and deeply moving film, light-years away from the standard productions packaged by Hollywood. Not for uneducated american public, though."
The best of the gay youth films.
henry clark | 01/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why is it that European film makers make better films about gay youth than Americans? From my standpoint, this film is the best in the triumvirate of excellent European films that deal with love and need among young gay men, the other two being "Get Real" and "Beautiful Thing." Of the three, Come Undown is probably the most realistic and most engaging. The innocence, awkwardness and self-delusion of late adolescent love are all well depicted. All of the characters in the film are credible and 3 dimensional, and we are spared the artifice, preachiness, and excessive camp that infuse many American films on the same topic. The acting is first rate, and the film involves real, every day people whose concerns go beyond just homosexuality. We are not dealing with stock characters (and caricatures) from the Boys in the Band or the Broken Hearts Club. Some readers have criticized the film for being a "downer." No question, the film deals with depression, alienation from family, and fears of the professional consequences of pursuing a gay romance. This is not easy stuff, and let's face it folks---these issues are still part of gay life and a downer for many, many people. The fact that the film confronts the concerns does not make it a bad film, no matter how uncomfortable the confrontation makes the viewers."