You and the Night 3

The brilliant, bizarre You and the Night has found itself in a unique position. It played Cannes back in May, where it was the third most popular French film with LGBT content at the film festival. Such a strange circumstance has probably never before been possible, and yet it happened. Blue Is the Warmest Color won the Palme d’Or, Stranger by the Lake won the Queer Palm, and You and the Night ended up the bridesmaid at an entirely unprecedented celebration of French queer cinema on the Croisette.

This is a shame. You and the Night, the debut film by Yann Gonzalez, is nothing short of extraordinary. Its small-scale orgiastic plot is akin to the controlled sexual experiments of other, prior queer filmmakers like François Ozon (Sitcom) and Pier Paolo Pasolini (Teorema). Its style is of another ilk entirely. Gonzalez has tapped into a new twist on the chaotic abandon of his forebears, a bright and thumping sense of color and sound that hints strongly at another major influence on his work – electronic music. A former member of M83, his brother Anthony Gonzalez remains the band’s principal member. The group contributed the original soundtrack for You and the Night.

But before exploring the film’s bombastic use of that collaboration, there’s an orgy to discuss. The film begins with three waifish youths, the only named characters. Ali (Kate Moran) and Matthias (Niels Schneider) are lovers, and Udo (Nicolas Maury) is their maid, though from the very beginning there’s obviously a lot more going on in this three-way relationship of sorts. This particular evening they plan to hold an orgy in their sparse and futuristic apartment, on one of the top floors of a building that looks like a cross between a chateau and an asylum. Appropriate, given how little regard this film has for the bland conventions of authority and sanity.

The guests begin to arrive: The Slut (Julie Brémond), The Stud (Éric Cantona), The Teen (Alain Fabien Delon), and The Star (Fabienne Babe), each named with a gleeful sense of absurdity. They all have their own baggage, sexual and otherwise, which will get unpacked over the course of the film. Yet Gonzalez manages to overcome the obstacles of an ensemble structure, weaving the diverse memories and narratives of his characters together with (mostly) careful timing. His trio of protagonists gets the most intriguing back story, a series of medieval scenes with stunningly imaginative sets. Meanwhile, another memorable moment of flashback involves The Stud, his girthy anatomy, and a hilarious cameo by Béatrice Dalle.

You and the Night 4

As it turns out, Cantona’s performance and his (*ahem*) prosthetic member are worth closer inspection. For a film ostensibly about sex, the only really objectified element is this one piece. Initially, it is simply refreshing to see this sort of re-arrangement of sexual desire. Yet there’s something even more interesting going on with the way Gonzalez has crafted these characters. They feel like archetypes but, with the exception of The Teen, they aren’t ones that we recognize.

You and the Night has created a new formula, like that of Teorema but without nearly as much brutality. While Pasolini’s film is an assault, looking to deconstruct and mock the bourgeois European family, Gonzalez has decided to simply pretend such a thing does not exist. This film contains sadism, incest, polyamory, and intergenerational relationships, just to name a few. It doesn’t introduce them as a tool to undermine society, but rather presents them in an oddly positive and sexy phosphorescence. The proposed orgy quickly becomes a more slow-burning, erotic communion of emotional resonance and human beauty.

Oh, and the DJ is top-notch. Gonzalez, obviously aware that his M83 connection will be in the forefront of his audience’s mind, has a little fun with the score. The apartment where the bulk of the action takes place has quite the fancy appliance: a machine that plays music in response to the user’s mood. The resulting sounds, composed for the film, thump along with the frenzied energy of The Slut just as easily as they match the melancholy of The Star. And while this collaboration was the most obvious one for Gonzalez to make, M83’s rhythms are more than just a convenience.

At its core, this is a film about time. Contrasting the centuries of love between Ali, Matthias and Udo and the urgent awakening of The Teen, Gonzalez brings a prosaic quality to his new sensual landscape. When the sun rises, the exact implications of such a sleepless night still hang back in the shadows. It’s unclear whether the multitude of romances among this varied group of lost souls is possible, and whether these anti-archetypes emerge from the experience with something other than a residual glow of beauty. It may not matter. The preceding erotic, droll and profound soirée itself might be the most intriguing queer cinematic expression of the year.

The Upside: You and the Night is a beautiful, sensual and thrillingly bizarre film with perfectly incorporated music from M83, stunning production design and exciting performances from almost the entire cast (especially Kate Moran and Nicolas Maury).

The Downside: Éric Cantona doesn’t quite appear to understand what’s going on, though that may work to the film’s advantage after all.

On the Side: Alain Fabien Delon’s father is Alain Delon, who just last week told a French TV station that he thinks homosexuality is unnatural. One wonders if he’s seen You and the Night.

grade_a


ARTICLE TAGS
Like this article? Join thousands of your fellow movie lovers who subscribe to The Weekly Edition from Film School Rejects. Our best articles, every week, right in your inbox!
  %
%  
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!
Twitter button
Facebook button
Google+ button
RSS feed



Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
Fantastic Fest 2014
6 Filmmaking Tips: James Gunn
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3