THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER

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THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER
USA/Canada
Director: Oz Perkins
Runtime: 93 minutes
Language: English

5/5

Here is the first truly unnerving indie horror story of the year. You may know Oz Perkins because last year Netflix released an atmospheric oddity titled I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House, a movie that, while not perfect, is pregnant, bursting at the seams with atmospheric dread straight from the universe of Shirley Jackson. The interesting thing is that this is actually Oz Perkins’ debut feature, previously titled February as it was known for almost twoy years where it floated in film festival hell before finally landing a spot in DirecTV’s On Demand Cinema in, wouldn’t you know, February, where it’s been playing before it got it’s official release at the very end of March.

Borrowing, it seems, liberally from a variety of sources, such as the works of David Lynch and a faint whiff of a Spanish horror film from 1971 titled La Residencia (a.k.a. The House that Screamed), The Blackcoat’s Daughter starts off with a surreal nightmare and ends with a scream. School is over at Bramford, and everyone is let go for the winter break except two very different girls : Kat (Kiernan Shipka), a waifish freshman, and Rose, a more assertive girl who comes off as a Mean Girl. Neither of the girls’ parents have arrived to pick them up, and both are allowed temporary residence at the university while their situation gets resolved.

Rose (Lucy Boynton), it seems, has her own issues to deal with. It looks like she might be pregnant and may need an abortion (a situation that Oz Perkins handles so deftly you almost have to listen very carefully to the dialogue to not miss it). She’s been tasked to take care of Kat but has plans of her own — namely, to go out that night with her boyfriend. Before she leaves she tells Kat a story that the sisters who work at Bramford are witches and departs. Kat is going through her own problems: she had badly wanted Father Brian to attend her piano performance at school, she seems to be certain her parents are dead and not coming for her, and she keeps getting phone calls on the dorm’s pay phone  which get more and more sinister.

Later that night, Rose returns and hears some sounds and muffled voices coming from the basement. Having Kat under her care and seeing she is not in her room she goes down and sees an extremely frightening revelation. Almost immediately we get ripped out of Bramford and into a Greyhound bus station where a lone young woman, Joan (Emma Roberts), sits alone in the cold. She meets Bill (James Remar), an older man on his way upstate with his wife Linda (Lauren Holly) and a bouquet of flowers in the back seat. While Bill feels an odd kinship to Joan and gives her a lift to Bramford, Linda is less than open — perhaps even hostile. The closer Joan gets to Bramford the more violent Kat becomes until it’s clear she’s under some dark influence.

And here, I’ll have to stop, because this is one of these stories where going into it knowing only the basic information is the best. Reader, this is an excellent movie and will be awarded recognition upon time. Remember those Val Lewton penny dreadfuls that eventually have grown in stature due to their sense of dread, that blink or miss it moment where something even darker lurks among the blackest of shadows? This is that movie. Oz Perkins and his brother Elvis Perkins, the latter who composed the sound and music of The Blackcoat’s Daughter, have produced that elusive act of a scary movie without a single jump scare that stretches the tension more and more, playing with time and events, the real and unreal, until there is no more choice but to release it all in a shocking sequence of violence and bloodletting. Filmed in the coldest of colors and thick chiaroscuro, this is a gorgeous movie saturated with menace in every frame. And, again, the sound — I haven’t heard a soundtrack this unsettling, discordant, and downright creepy. It’s a sound that just burrows underneath your skin. It’s purely evil music and I love it.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter is playing at Village East Cinema in NYC, Alamo Drafthouse  in Yonkers. and the AMC Cherry Hill 24. Check Moviefone for showings in your area. If you have DirecTV, it’s still there, On Demand, and it’s also available on Amazon, VUDU, YouTube, and iTunes.

 

DONALD CRIED

DONALD CRIED
USA
Director: Kris Avedisian
Runtime: 83 minutes
Language: English

4.5/5

Here is one of the strongest debut pictures which was first seen in 2016’s New Directors – New Films, finally making its official debut in a criminally limited amount of theaters nationwide. [It just completed a three-week arc in NYC and is now premiering in a arthouse theater near you.] Kris Avedisian’s often abrasive comedy should be playing to packed houses in multiplexes, it’s that good of a movie, because we all know a Donald Treebeck, we all probably were a Peter Latang, and the good thing is, to see the complex love-hated, dysfunctional relationship between the two central characters is to witness an uncomfortable past come back from the dead, even when what brings it back is an off-screen death that’s also used as a MacGuffin.

Peter Latang j(Jesse Wakeman) has returned to Warwick, RI to handle his dead grandmother’s affairs. While en route he loses his wallet and is literally stranded with no place to go. Running into his old high school friend Donald Treebeck (Kris Avedisian) he devises to have Donald drive him around town and loan him a little bit of money that can allow him to do the bare essentials and then split for good. What he doesn’t know is Donald is more than willing to help, with a catch.

The two men couldn’t be more different. from the first scene Peter is introduced and remains firmly entrenched in upper crust New York exec-wear complete with an elegant pea coat and scarf. He speaks in a curt, formal speech that says he just doesn’t have the time for you right now unless it’s to do a sale (or hook up later with a pretty exec, played by Louisa Krause). Donald on the other hand is a complete man-child, 30 going on 12, maybe 14, and a visit to his bedroom pretty much confirms this. How these two were ever friends is anyone’s guess, but as the movie progresses we get glimpses of Peter’s own past as a goth and someone who wasn’t all that nice to Donald. That now the tables have somewhat turned and Peter is the one getting progressively humiliated by Donald’s lack of boundaries and infantile behavior (which borders on the downright creepy at times) is probably a kind of comeuppance, but not much. Even now, Peter still remains as unpleasant as ever; he just happens to dress better and make more money.

If anyone is to be pitied it’s Donald: once the story reveals its sad (open) secret about the title character we sympathize. I dare anyone not to get moved into tears at the poignant finale. Kris Avedisian has created much more than a movie — this is a mirror for us to see ourselves in it, warts and all, and see on which extreme we will fall.

WOLVES

WOLVES
USA
Director: Bart Freundlich
Runtime: 103 minutes
Language: English

2.5/5

You know when you walk into an establishment, say, Mexican, and from the split-second you step in, everything —  from the decor, the placement of the bar, the food, the service, down to minutiae like the water being served — looks and tastes and feels exactly the same as a dozen other places you’ve been to around the country? This is what I felt when I saw Bart Freundlich’s sports drama Wolves: so many other movies have come before it that depict much of the events that transpire in his movie that I felt like I was watching something of a greatest hits section of a family going through a crisis and a young man trying to score for the team even when the odds are stacked up against him.

The premise: a jock that’s really a good guy has a difficult father (Michael Shannon, totally in the wrong film) whose antics get out of control and threaten to derail his son from his ambitions. Luckily for them, this is at heart a feel-good picture that is set to the motions of delivering — and why shouldn’t it? Considering the level of turmoil that the cast is put through it’s only justifiable to give them a moment’s reprieve unless it would turn into a Manchester by the Sea type of film in which there really is no way out of pain and tragedy. If you’re a die-hard fan of Michael Shannons’ work as I am you will like this movie; if you hate sports, stay away; Wolves in short is the equivalent of a derivative story you’ve seen  many times before, and because of that it’s also unremarkable.

ON DVD: I AM MICHAEL

I AM MICHAEL
USA
Director: Justin Kelly
Runtime: 100 minutes
Language: English

3.5/5

It’s kind of remarkable that a little over twenty years ago the only LGBT-themed stories that were being made into film were Will & Grace or Ellen clones. Shallow, one-dimensional stories that supposedly gave LGBT people a voice in cinema, stereotypes caught in formulaic plots harking way back to the 1930s and the Doris Day/Rock Hudson era, and I’m not even going to enter the AIDs-themed films that no matter how you looked at them, always had this sense of reducing gay men into a suffering niche that only merited to die on screen, alone, dejected, with only a parent or surviving lover to  mourn if even that.

As much as I can’t tolerate the idea of a story like I Am Michael it’s necessary to understand the queer experience. We’ve moved far, far away from the simple stories and into stories that speak of a true person. Michael Glatze is one of these people, and again, while I knew of him when he heralded XY Magazine I didn’t know he was going through the sort of internal crisis of identity that the story by Benoit Denizet-Lewis from which this movie is based on indicates.

Here we have a man who went from having a rather happy, stable life with his partner in the Castro, who moved to Halifax for a more peaceful life, to suddenly getting what we now know is a panic attack. From that panic attack, Glatze realized that his condition as a gay man was the sickness (or abnormality as he calls it in the film)_ that was causing it, and thus, he needed to atone and purge it from his system. Leaving Benoit and then moving from a series of people — one a Buddhist instructor, and finally ending with a woman named Rebecca (Emma Roberts), we see Glatze slowly become deader and deader on the outside until by the film’s end, he’s basically become just another empty shell of a person.

James Franco acquits himself rather well in the role; it’s a sad state to see his Glatze slowly self-erase himself from the world even when he would continue to ogle men while preaching Godly perfection. Zachary Quinto and Charlie Carver come across better drawn as characters — the first playing Benoit, who witnesses first-hand Glatze’s descent into hypocrisy; the second as the young twink who has a quiet yet poignant scene with Glatze that goes somewhat unacknowledged. Whether you enjoy this movie, see it with a compassionate eye, or see it with a distancing due to its subject matter, this is a movie that does deserve a view if at all to attempt an understanding of how people can become so completely fucked up and ruin their entire lives, essentially becoming little more than walking shells.

CATFIGHT

 

CATFIGHT
USA
Director: Onur Tukel
Runtime: 95 minutes
Language: English

3.75/5

Frenemies come together; chaos ensues, and that, in a nutshell, is your movie, still playing in theaters around the country and on VOD platforms. There is a running satire concurrent with the main story that reflects to a larger political climate in which we, as inhabitants of our own micro-cosmos, can’t seem to find a middle ground without wrecking the shit out of each other, but the movie per se is less invested in that unless it’s by occasionally throwing glimpses at the state of affairs abroad and our entries into the wars under the Bush regime.

At least, the extremely appropriately titled Catfight lets its two female leads — Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, both sharp TV comedians — to let loose and really go for roles that are absolutely unsympathetic from start to finish, redeem themselves not an inch even at the face of abject tragedy, and seem to be aware that they’re trapped in an endless loop that skips on its own groove. The women are ex-college classmates and the reason of their dislike is nebulous, if ever mentioned. How they get together is through circumstance: Veronica is a trophy wife living in SoHo and married to a guy who’s just secured a deal with a mid-Eastern nation. He’s in celebratory mode. Serving drinks the party are Anne and her girlfriend Lisa (Alicia Silverstone, in a nice supporting touch). Anne is a talented artist struggling in Bushwick, but her paintings are so extremely aggressive — basically red on red violence — that they don’t really sell. Interestingly enough, Veronica gets introduced by cutting her son’s artistic dreams down for something more practical, a thing that will haunt her later.

When Anne and Veronica meet exchanges are in the frosty pleasantries that people who are now essentially strangers share with each other (partly because they have to; partly because since they’re caught in situations they hate, they need to unload the venom on someone, and who better than the old college chum whom you’ll never see again? Think again, girls.

Anne’s humiliation at being put down by Veronica is complete and lands her in a stairwell. Drunk out of her mind, Veronica also winds up there, and both women, angry beyond etiquette, go to blows. The blows, mind you, are of the action variety — so ferocious that you realize it’s not Nicholas Cage or Keanu Reeves kicking the shit out of ten guys at once but two petite New York women. The thing is, Veronica takes a tumble down the stairs after a crucial blow to the head and wakes up two years later. In a hospital. Alone. No family, no assets; she’s basically homeless and dependent on the kindness of her former maid (Myra Lucretia Taylor) who takes Veronica in, introduces her to chambermaid work, and tells her a few less savory things about herself.

It’s here that Veronica learns that luck has been much kinder to Anne, now a famed artist gracing magazines the likes of ArtInfo (the movie uses a variant of the title but you can see where they were going). Anne is now not in struggling Bushwick but in the limelight, planning her first baby with Lisa, and is even more insufferable than Veronica ever was, humiliating her meek assistant Sally (Ariel Kavoussi) for using the color blue. while planing her next exhibit. Who should walk into the exhibit but Veronica, who sees a painting that resembles her. Guess what happens next.

The good thing about a movie like Catfight is that it isn’t trying to sell you a product better or with loftier aspirations that to see two women beat the shit out of themselves and still, somehow, continue ticking like a clock that just doesn’t know when to stop. Tukel amps up the satire by winking at you with the fight sequences, choreographed to death and with sound effects that magnify the sheer ridiculousness of these women’s predicament. Sometimes you need this kind of movie to take you out of the sheer seriousness of it all and deliver a (feel-good? ridiculous) story of women who should stay away from each other. Who cares if these women even evolve past their primal hatred? Anyone looking for a movie where two adversaries come together to sing “Kumbaya” should definitely not check this one out: forget Feud: Bette and Joan; this one is nihilistic, violent fun.

LAVENDER

LAVENDER
USA
Director: Ed Gass-Donnelly
Runtime: 92 minutes
Language: English

1.5/5

Ever since Hitchcock used repressed memories as plot devices to narrate his formidable movies every director wanting to probe the waters of supernatural horror has tried to emulate the Master of Suspense, sometimes getting close like Christopher Dolan’s Memento, and sometimes misfiring badly, such as this new arrival onto the indie scene. It’s a shame because the story itself could have been a great platform for its lead actress to perform the heck out of a tormented character haunted by the past. Instead we get a color-by-numbers product that is as dead on arrival as its mystery.

In 1985 young Jane Ryer was found holding onto a knife, covered in blood, crouching in a corner of her house while her family lay lifeless before her. There was some speculation that she may have snapped, but who in their right mind would think a girl of her age would be able to produce this level of carnage? Fast forward to the present: now Jane Ryer has grown into a happy young woman married, with a daughter and a career as a photographer. A car accident (that happens just when she’s singing a piece of a child’s song, Lavender — hence the title, clever) lands Jane in the counsel of a psychiatrist (Justin Long) who attempts via therapy to induce her memories. A mysterious box arrives, and Jane realizes what it’s about.

Soon we see her being drawn back to the house where the events from 1985 occurred. This, instead of inducing an interest in a mystery, instead creates scenarios where anything and everything that is meant to be seen as a Portent of Horror happens: a red balloon with a key, a chase through a maze of bales of hay that leads to another gift box, and the requisite supernatural specters that have to make their appearance to remind you this is a thriller rife with horrific overtones. Meanwhile, Jane grows none the wiser and digs not an inch into her own psyche, but instead becomes a passive conduct for cheap scares that will inevitably play themselves out in the time the movie takes to get there, which at least here, is mercifully quick.

Lavender comes courtesy from Tribeca Film Festival, which should give you an idea of what you’re getting as cinematic entertainment. Abbie Cornish can, on occasion, motivate you to see her perform onscreen (as she did over 10 years ago in her debut picture Somersault) but ever since she’s been adrift and resembling a clone of Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts — all doll-faced, no character. Everyone else, especially Dermot Mulroney, else is wasted, the story falls apart, and you’re left with the feeling that you just got swindled. If at least there was a smidgen of style, Lavender could transcend its limitations but it never even tries to build any tension. A colossal waste of time.

THE BELKO EXPERIMENT

 

THE BELKO EXPERIMENT
USA
Director: Greg McLean
Runtime: 85 minutes
Language: English

3/5

Remember The Twilight Zone? Of course you do. That show, a front-runner of transgressive fiction veiled in science fiction, horror, and fantasy, often presented characters pitted against unusual situations that occasionally erupted in acts of shocking violence. One episode in particular stands out: The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, a classic of the genre that put man against man in acts of blame, conspiracies, and paranoia until the characters’ humanities became erased completely, only to reveal a larger, much more sinister plot.

Now, blend that episode with elements from The Stanford Prison Experiment or Experimenter (both films from 2014 based on psychologists with a rather unethical, if not downright cruel way of measuring human behavior), ratchet up the tension and the carnage to eleven, bring in a director known for some of the goriest horror movies done in recent years (Wolf Creek), and you’ve got yourself a neat little B-picture with no other aspirations than to provoke and horrify at the levels of depravity mankind can descend once the stakes are up and it’s clear the only way out of a certain hell is through bloodletting.

The premise is ridiculously simple: 80 employees of an isolated office building, the Belko agency, which cheerfully advertises “Bringing people together!” start the day with the usual office banter, until they wind up getting locked in with no way in or out. Confusion settles in as a voice over the intercom announces that they are all in a game of survival and 30 coworkers must die or all of them will die. Confusion turns into panic when it seems that employees are being shot at random by an unseen shooter (and anyone who’s been in an active shooter situation or has seen one knows the horrors that soon follow). When it turns out that those who fell weren’t shot but that they had small detonators which tracked their every move, paranoia truly sets in and one employee, Mike (John C Gallagher, who quickly ascends into the film’s unlikely hero while remaining a stereotype) attempts to remove it to no avail — not to mention that the voice over the intercom calmly announces he will detonate it and all others if they attempt removal.

The Belko Experiment doesn’t waste a second of your time getting you from where it needs to go and flies by in little over than 80 minutes of tense, sadistic storytelling. Loyalties are divided almost immediately, people devolve into murdering madmen, people are decimated, and blood flies everywhere in buckets. Audiences will have to sit back with some detachment in order to enjoy this sort of insane, crude picture; otherwise it just may be too much to handle. However, because this type of picture has been done many times over, it also becomes somewhat redundant and nihistic, and once the Big Reveal arrives, which either sets the stage for a sequel or wants you to feel like you’re trapped in the ninth gate of hell, you have to sit back and ask yourself, what company of an apparent global status hires people only to one day massacre them all?

ON VOD: DON’T KNOCK TWICE

DON’T KNOCK TWICE
UK
Director: Garadog W. James
Runtime: 93 minutes
Language: English

2/5

It’s kind of a tragedy that Don’t Knock Twice, a film barely released in US cinemas who seems to be playing well in On Demand platforms, didn’t embrace one half of its premise (estranged mother and daughter) and instead decided to go through the “there’s a witch and she’s nasty” plot that is so tired it may as well be dead on arrival. I would have preferred to have seen a  mother trying to reconnect with a daughter without having to also battle an external force. But, this is the world of low-budget VOD movies and films like these, made on the cheap in perhaps less than a month and released via IFC Midnight, so the expectations on coming into this one were on the slim.

Let’s just say i wasn’t disappointed. Don’t Knock Twice at least has the delicacy as to not deliver a prologue with a four-score-and-twenty-years-ago beginning that is somehow meant to inform the audience of some event that occurred before the movie’s timeline. (Actually, there is a sort of backstory, but that doesn’t show up until perhaps the first third of this short picture, to the film’s credit.) But back to the story: it happens that Jessica (Katee Sackhoff) is an artist and recovering addict who at one point gave up her daughter Chloe (Lucy Boynton, the cool girl from Sing St. and horror mainstay), but now feels the  need to reconnect and give her a life.  Chloe at first doesn’t really give a hoot about Jess, but the “backstory” I just mentioned? It happens that Chloe and some friends go urban legend hunting at the house of a recluse accused of stealing children, who will only appear if you do what the title of the movie tells you not to do.

Guess what happens?

To the movie’s credit, there is some suspense where you don’t quite know who’s in league with the devil (so to speak). After Chloe shows up on Jess’ door asking to stay over and hoping that whatever it is that’s haunting her will disappear, the movie takes little time to develop any relationship the two could have and instead decides that the only way to resolve this situation is through the horror part, so we begin to get treated with the sounds of crying, an old lady walking the halls of Jess’ home, statues breaking, a nanny who freaks out when she sees Chloe and tells Jess that she’s got a black cloud over her (the same nanny, when Chloe produces a picture of the Baba Yaga, the demon she believes is haunting her, tells her not to believe what she sees on the internet). There are a couple of red herrings, but in a nutshell, Don’t Knock Twice implodes rather badly during its second half, and it even has the gall to wink towards a sequel towards the end.

Don’t Knock Twice, in short, is a pretty horrific mess of a picture with cardboard characters. It’s a shame — Boynton is a good actress, she was great in Sing St. and should be in better films. Hopefully she will be.

PERSONAL SHOPPER

Kristen Stewart re-teams with Olivier Assayas in his new film Personal Shopper now playing in NYC and LA.

PERSONAL SHOPPER
France
Director: Olivier Assayas
Runtime: 105 minutes
Language: French, English

4.5/5

The best thing Kristen Stewart ever did was veer as far away from the type of material she could have kept repeating once her Twilight stint was done. Ever since her appearance in 2012’s On the Road I’ve been seeing her deliver better and better performances. Even when the movies were a little less than stellar, or total fiascos (like last year’s much promoted but disastrous Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), there is something about Stewart that reflects upon herself, her role, her presence, and her surroundings. Honestly, I’m pretty confident that this girl is well on her way to receiving her Oscar (and a rosary of nominations) throughout her career. She’s too good in her roles — a venture into accents, and she can easily become the next Meryl Streep. Guaranteed.

Her collaboration with Assayas in Personal Shopper is her second and if you haven’t seen 2014’s Clouds of Sils Maria where she went face to face with French legend Juliette Binoche (also in the role of an assistant), you’re doing yourself a gross disservice. in Personal Shopper, as Maureen, another assistant, she’s by herself for the entire duration of the film. When she’s not running errands for her boss, a maybe actress or socialite or model who demands via notes that she purchase the latest in haute couture but never try them on (which, let’s say, never works; you tell a person not to touch a specific item and that is the first thing they will do and that certainly happens here), she’s feeling the presence of her twin brother.

It turns out that Maureen and her brother shared an uncommon bond — that of the psychic medium, but also that of those who have weak hearts. Maureen’s brother passed away recently, literally forcing her to move as far away as she could to forget. However, ghosts, being immaterial, don’t care about time or space — they are always with you, and Maureen certainly comes off as haunted, either by his memory, his absence, or his unseen presence. Which is a problem for Maureen — would she rather be haunted by her brother or just say good bye until they meet again? Let’s just say that during a weekend off from shopping for her socialite-boss she travels to the house her brother died in. It has next to disastrous results.

And no sooner than when the ghost of her brother starts to manifest itself, Assayas pulls the rug from out of people’s feet in a bravura sequence of events that ratchet up the suspense up to 100. Without disclosing anything, Maureen starts getting text messages on her iPhone, and while they start rather innocuously, they start to reveal something sinister behind them. Who is the spirit that seeks to communicate with her? Who is stalking her in this way? You will never see it coming, and there is that denouement that left Cannes’ spinning.

So if you’re in for a good, solid scare in which not a drop of blood is shed and contains no jump-scares (the bane of all horror movies!), go see Personal Shopper. This is a solid ghost story with hints of a crucial, climactic sequence of Blow-Up. Assayas should continue with this genre in my opinion. Having appeared as a talking head in the Hitchcock-Truffaut documentary in 2015 Assayas is perfectly comfortable in directing atmospheric tales of suspense and horror and in Stewart he may have found his muse.

Personal Shopper is playing in NYC at the IFC, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, Cinepolis Chelsea, BAM Rose, Cinemas 1, 2, 3, Kew Gardens Cinema, Bow Tie Clairidge (Montclair); also in select cinemas in Maryland/DC area, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, and Seattle.

FRANTZ

 

FRANTZ
France
Director: Francois Ozon
Runtime: 112 minutes
Language: French, German

3/5

There is a point in every director’s career when the  need to veer into unknown territory, whether to expand a technique, try something new, or simply tell the same story under the guise of the same themes, becomes almost a siren call. Francois Ozon, a director with a distinct body of work that almost always veers on the queer — whether in light-hearted fare like In The House or more somber stories such as 5 X 2, takes a detour into a historic drama with his remake of the 1932 movie Broken Lullaby, itself directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

In 1919, Anna (German actress Paula Beer in an intimate performance) lives with her husband’s parents in the small town of Quedlinberg, Germany. Germany, as we know, has been defeated in the war and has experienced the loss of an entire generation of boys sent to a war from which they’d never return. [Anna’s fiancee  Frantz Hoffmeister, a musician, was one of them.] While delivering flowers to Frantz’s grave she notices a tall, young man also paying his respects to Frantz’s grave. The man turns out to be a former French soldier, Adrien (Pierre Niney). A conversation arises, Anna introduces Adrien to the Hoffmeisters despite the animosity that was palpable between the French and the German, here symbolized between the Hoffmeisters and Adrien, but it’s not long when Adrien reveals his story with Frantz, changing the entire turn of the story.

The lingering thought however, arises: being an Ozon movie, is this a film about two gay men who somehow found each other and then fought on enemy lines? Adrien seems to know a lot about Frantz, and in winning over his parents, he seems to also be allowing the approval of the ghost in the house and it’s not long before Mrs Hoffmeister is already pondering that Anna could potentially marry Adrien. The fact that Anna seems to be falling for Adrien also adds to the film’s already complex story: could she be that deluded, not knowing that there may have been a clearly homosexual relationship between her fiancee and Adrien, or would she rather forgo this, a life of loneliness and lost memories, if not for this man who knows so much of the man she loved?

Ozon’s first movie in black and white occasionally lapses into color whenever the spirit of Frantz comes alive be it in narration or flashbacks, and it’s a gorgeous move for a movie that is already saturated with austere blacks and whites. It’s perhaps a little too overlong for its own good, and the last 30 – 40 minutes get the Hitchcock treatment as Adrien departs, unexpectedly, to France and goes MIA and Anna, wanting — needing — to get to the bottom of the secrets still lingering behind the veil, goes in search of him.  Out of this year’s entries which I saw at the Rendezvous with French Cinema, this one was one of the strongest, but it still comes off as somewhat too restrained even for Ozon himself, too tame, almost as if though he’d decided to play it safe rather than go risque (a thing that he’s not above from doing). In short, Frantz the film, while a solid entry, is somewhat too muted, its characters not terribly alive, and its pacing as slow as paint drying.

Frantz is currently playing at the Film Forum and the Lincoln Plaza Cinema in New York.