For an introduction to the concept of Thankful for World Cinema please go here.
You and the Night (2013)
I have a theory about this film. I put that forward from the start to immediately plant the seed that it’s the kind of film that one might develop theories about. Now, the cynical view would be that any film that requires theories about it is being far too abstruse for its own good. However, there are a number of affectations within this film that I believe make theorizing not only necessary but welcome.
The set-up, on the surface, is a simple one. Round about midnight a couple and their live-in transvestite maid are in preparations for an orgy. The guests at said orgy are all “labeled.” And I mean labeled such that they are hardly if ever referred to by name but rather as a label: The Slut, The Star, The Stud and The Teen. Even the maid, who can be argued to be one of the more central figures in the narrative, is usually referred to as just that, The Maid.
That’s just one thing that lends some credence to theory-bearing. The hints flow into the story slowly. There is a deftly not-much-commented on futuristic music player, there are sudden theatrical infiltrations of negative fill in the apartment during story telling by many of the players. When there are intrusions of seeming reality (such as the police in search of a missing person) the interaction is odd, stylized and over-the-top, but decidedly so and not accidentally. All this and more contribute to a notion that the film is fact an utter fantasy fashioned as such to examine as many sexual quirks and avenues in singular psyches as possible.
The lack of convention can be plainly seen in the third act as fantasies dissolve back into a reality that more closely borders the surreal than ever before in the film. These are the more secondary intimations that have less bearing on the plot, the more obvious hints that I interpreted this way cannot be discussed lest they give away too much of the film’s action.
There are many subgenres and approaches to film that require more out of actors and this film certainly gets plenty from its ensemble. The central triad is played by Kate Moran, Niels Schneider, whom I recognized from Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats, here he is equally as evocative if not more so; and lastly Daniel Maury as the maid. For as absurd as the interactions of this trio may be they pull it off, and more importantly, behave as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Flanking them are footballer-turned-actor Eric Cantona who has a similarly unenviable task of not only saying his monologues straight-faced but selling them and succeeds. Fabienne Babe astutely plays the star-in-hiding with skeletons in her closet. Alain Fabien Delon, son of legendary French leading man Alain Delon, brings a perfect ingenue-like quality to this film and effectively plays a fought-over prize. Perhaps the most enigmatic, and in some ways most lacking character is that of The Slut, however, this is no fault of Julie Bremond’s. There is an attempt to plumb a profundity beneath a pornographic façade of all of these characters. The results with her character just don’t prove as conclusive as they do with the others.
There is an odd kind of mysterious magic that keeps You and the Night engaging throughout. It’s tale is a curve rather than a straight line and thus the end is a bit of an ellipsis. However, ultimately the journey is an intriguing one which plays out a bit like Pirandello writing an exploration of human sexuality for a different medium in a different century.