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The Witnesses
The Witnesses
Actors: Emmanuelle Béart, Michel Blanc, Jacques Nolot, Michèle Moretti, Xavier Beauvois
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2008     1hr 52min

Andr Tchin`s lush drama follows a close knit group of friends who are faced with the dawn of a sexual revolution in the early 1980s. THE WITNESSES tracks the relationship of a young writer played by Emmanuelle Bart (8 ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Emmanuelle Béart, Michel Blanc, Jacques Nolot, Michèle Moretti, Xavier Beauvois
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Strand Releasing
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/24/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 52min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Love and Passion in the 1980s: Enter the Spectre
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Les Témoins (The Witnesses) is another fine artwork by French director André Téchiné that continues to examine relationships in times of stress and through areas of rough travel. As written by Téchiné, Laurent Guyot, and Viviane Zingg this film is a love story and a social commentary on life in 1984 when AIDS raised its ugly head and disrupted lives, hopes and relationships. What could have been a heavy-handed woeful tale is instead a story about ordinary people and how the spectre of the then 'new disease' affected a small group of friends. In the intimacy of the story there is an opportunity to reflect and to see more clearly the atmosphere of that time in history.

Sarah (Emmanuelle Béart) is a writer of children's books married to Mehdi (Sami Bouajila), a member of the Paris police force vice squad. They have an open marriage and have just given birth to a baby boy - a factor that disrupts their separate lives while conflicting their married life. Sarah has a physician friend Adrien (Michel Blanc, so memorable in his role in 'Monsieur Hire') who is gay, and while he is older, he still longs for the company of young men. Adrien meets the young catering student Manu (Johan Libéreau), a lad whose sexual appetite is satisfied by trysts in parks, back rooms of bars, etc. Manu and his opera singer sister Julie (Julie Depardieu) live modestly in a sleazy hotel cum brothel that is under surveillance by Mehdi. Adrien and Manu strike up a friendship and are invited to join Sarah and Mehdi to Sarah's mother's cabin by the sea and while there a relationship between Manu and Mehdi begins, one that will become an affair in secret.

A strange disease comes to public attention and it is Adrien who is in charge of the investigation of the disease now called AIDS. Though Adrien's ties with Manu have become platonic while Manu see Mehdi daily, Adrien is the first to notice lesions on Manu, lesions that are the hallmark of AIDS. How this discovery affects the lives of each of the characters we have met (the 'witnesses' to a very important time in our history) serves as the crux of the story - part tragedy and part a torch of resilience the weaves the story to a close in an honest, touching but never maudlin manner.

The acting is consistently excellent, the sort of ensemble acting that keeps the focus on the message of the film rather than on individual attention to characters. The movie is beautifully photographed by Julien Hirsch and the musical score by Philippe Sarde wisely blends excerpts from Vivaldi and Mozart with original music that recalls the 1980s. This is yet another triumph for André Téchiné - a film that deserves the widest possible audience. Grady Harp, June 08"
Very French
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 05/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

""The Witnesses"

Very French

Amos Lassen

One of the films that has been making the GLBT festival circuit this year is "The Witnesses" (Strand Releasing), a new French film that has been very well received.
Like many French films, this is narrated by one character (in voice over), Sarah who is writing the main character's life story. The plot deals with love in all of its varieties and guises, about gaining self-happiness and about how AIDS destroys. It takes place in the 1980's when we first learned about AIDS and it shows beautifully how the characters in the film deal with the disease. The movie is never maudlin or sad, it is like life--it just keeps going on.
The movie deals with the life of Manu, a young gay man who moves to Paris. While there he meets an older man who falls in love with him, Adrien. Manu is not looking for love; he wants friendship. Adrien has a good friend, Sarah, a new mom and her husband, Mehdi. They have an open relationship and allow each other to have sex with others. Mehdi is taken by Manu and the two begin an affair.
What happens in the rest of the movie is better not said but let me say that this is a movie to watch for. It is important because it dares to look at AIDS in a different way and it explores so many different facets of love. However what it really does is let us know how devastating AIDS was. I think sometimes we tend to forget that all that we have today was won for us by so many people that we lost to the terrible disease and we need to be reminded. More so, we are still not free from the horrible consequences of such a terrible blow to the human race.

A Mess
Daniel G. Lebryk | 02/14/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)

"This film was just all over the map and messy for me. It just never engaged me at all. The topic, love, freedom, France in the 80's (I lived there at that time) and the appearance of AIDS in the 80's was what drew me to this film. And I happen to really like André Téchiné, the director's films. The initial editing was choppy, the story line seemed to bounce all over, and it was very hard for me to follow the characters from the outset. Once the film settled in and I got to know the characters better, the relationships just had no intensity or compassion in them. The coupling just seemed robotic. People were cold to eachother, with what seemed to be very little feeling.

So I certainly apologize to those that loved this film. But it just didn't engage me at all, and I wanted so much to like this film. There was nothing off putting about the topic, it just didn't seem to have heart where I wanted it.

Technically, it's a very well made film. The DVD company made a huge mistake in printing the subtitles over the film, although most Americans would watch with the subtitles on. It was also sad that they were printed within the frame, the bottom part of the letterbox is a much better location.

If anyone was wondering, this is definately an R rated film."
Bitter textures!
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 05/19/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Andre Techine is a consecrated French director who has bestowed us majuscule masterworks. The main focus in his films turns around the complexities of the human soul, acting and reacting before the rules.

And this solid script gains a profound respect due the multiple issues involved. The main personage is Manu, a young in his early twenties, who arises unsaid passions in a doctor, a close friend of the family (magisterially performed by Michel Blanc, who evidently steals the show in this movie) who observes how that his love for Manu has no future. On the other hand, we have a police agent who (after an unexpected accident) suddenly realizes his affective universe includes the love for that boy. (And the irony is that he works into an unity that faces against the moral and the good customes). His wife is a free thinker woman who admits the infidelity in the couple, recently mother.

When the AIDS appears and captures Manu as one of its victims (we are in 1985) all a web of unsentimental situations will derivate since from this fact.

A film that invites you to think and rethink about the complex affective universe of the human beings.