Why This Director?: Felt guilty about missing out on the QM episode of HMWYBS and saw that he had three films in Slant Magazine’s Best of the 00s feature, which is pretty impressive.
My Last Experience Was…: Nope.
What Did I Watch: Queen Margot, the Cannes winner, and Intimacy, the Berlin winner.
Where Does He Fit: A well constructed narrative is thrilling, of course, but there is always the extreme approach in either direction. There can be too little, or too much. Queen Margot goes for the latter, to the point where literally any summary feels like a gross oversimplification, and good luck keeping track of the characters beyond vague disclaimers like “that is the queen, that is her best friend.” Yet it is absolutely thrilling and has more than a few pure cinema moments thanks to how much it relies on its gorgeous cinematography and out of this world costumes. Everyone not only looks sexy in this, but they’re all either fucking or getting fucked or killing each other in political plays that are as incomprehensible as they are delirious. Chereau’s camera laps up the bodies and his background in opera comes to the forefront as the grand scheme that is the life of this plotting lunatic royal, from trapped animal to negotiator just as fierce as her Cannes prize winning mother, takes on a weight as big as the moment when the fat lady sings. Everything is frayed and covered in germs and frankly would be thrown out if it existed nowadays. Magnificently unusual, desperately want to see this on a big screen.
Meanwhile, we have his 2001 film that won the Golden Bear and a Best Actress award for Kerry Fox, with the very appropriate title of Intimacy, most well known for a scene where Fox performs unstimulated fellatio on Mark Rylance. The two do not know anything about each other except that they just want to have anonymous sex once a week as Rylance’s character tries to cope with his dead and finished marriage. The opening pans over his sleeping body as the credits and a song play are sort of marvelous even if I could never pinpoint why. The present, where the lovers meet up and have awkward chit chat before getting it on, are a marvel of banality and lived-in behaviors before we get to some pretty sexy fucking scenes. (Also, it’s remarkable how much Rylance has simultaneously aged yet not aged between this and Bridge of Spies 15 years later.) So this all seems pretty impressive on paper, and I cannot deny a certain power in the way the flashbacks use much prettier and more colorful cinematography, and in the way it turns out that sex and theatricality are linked via Fox’s character being an actress in a production of Glass Menagerie. However, the dialogue between certain characters when we leave the boudoir is LOUDLY unsubtle, feeling like the exact opposite of Queen Margot throwing you into the deep end of the pool and seeing if you can swim in it. The children giggling when we are in the lonely apartment is painful stuff that would belong in a student production and certainly feels out of place compared to the genuine chemistry on display if there’s boning going on, no matter how ridiculous the lack of foreplay is after a period of time. There’s a real nakedness (sorry) to the cast that makes the complete lack of explanations for anything related to the backstory that works in a way with consistent tonal levels easier to paper over, although it doesn’t do a perfect job. It’s a noble exercise that almost cohered if the script hadn’t given in to moments like “have the children giggle LOUDLY!” Still, it’s strange as hell, and I appreciate the fact that everyone involved was so willing to go there. I’d say this bodes well for the Chereaus I have yet to watch if he can work out the kinks in what goes on.
Most Valuable Asset: Body horror gone romantic.
Most Excited For: My Brother and Gabrielle.
Coming Up Next: The Japanese answer to avant garde, Hiroshi Teshigahara.