The prolific, some call neo-Fassbinder, François Ozon has an admirable commitment to putting a film out every year.The results have been recently delightfully varied, ranging from the buoyant but silly murder mystery comedy musical, 8 Femmes, a celebration of several generations of French actresses (a cast including Catherine Deneuve, Virginie Ledoyen, Emmanuelle Beart, Issabelle Huppert, and the amazing legend Danielle Darrieux) and the female canon of French pop music, to the starker Sous La Sable (Under the Sand), a showcase for the brilliant Charlotte Rampling, whose pungent and poignant subdued theatricality is put to good use throughout the heightened and grueling melodrama.My particular favorite has been 5X2, mostly because it showcases the brilliant Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, and illustrates wonderfully, in reverse, the unraveling of a relationship, a sort of neo LesParapluies du Cherbourg – onlyfeaturing mature talent (yikes, I’m no longer in my twenties!).The Ruth Rendall/Patricia Highsmith influenced languid thriller Swimming Pool, from two years ago, also showcased Rampling, and Ozon’s longtime "Edie Sedgwick," Ludvine Sagnier. Ozon’s influences are an exercise in campiness, I suppose - Douglas Sirk, Hitchcock, Warhol, and the other usual suspects- but the young director executes and assimilates these points of references and delivers a highly original, and fully-realised, point of view masterfully. In an age when the Nouvelle Vague and the Italian new wave directors have passed their prime or left us, it is heartening for me that we still have vital and inventive auteurs like François Ozon – and his spiritual big brother, Pedro Almodovar – to keep us going to and loving the cinema.
I recently experienced Ozon’s latest (Stateside at least), Le Temps qui Reste (Time to Leave). The film features the exhilarating Melville Poupod, as a self-indulgent photographer who discovers he has terminal cancer, and is forced to navigate his life and its closure amongst his dysfunctional family relationships (Jeanne Moreau plays his sympathetic but flawed grandmother!!! Actually, she just plays herself but it is wonderful nonetheless…) and of course his own departure.My fave Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is uncanny in her understated but significant role in the film, which adds to the appeal for me.And the inevitable death scene – and, no, I’m not being morbid – on a crowded European beach not unlike those I visited in my youth, both is a nod to and surpasses the poignancy and poetry of the closing tableauxof Visconti’s Death in Venice.
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