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The American video release of THE MAN I LOVE wants us to think that
this is quite a different film. Note how the pool (which is an indoor
facility in the film) is depicted as outdoors, flanked by exotic palm
trees? Clearly, this isn't going to be an unconventional romance with
an AIDS storyline, right? Wrong! Like the box cover, THE MAN I LOVE
tries to have it all by challenging expectations - and it often
Like YOU'LL GET OVER IT and JUST A QUESTION OF LOVE, this is another French teleplay with a gay coming-out / coming-of-age theme. What makes this film different, however, is that it refuses to be defined by one genre or other. The story tracks the relationship between straight blonde Adonis diver Lucas and lovelorn gay activist pool attendant Martin - and it is an odd match indeed. At first, Lucas' brusque (borderline rude) behavior to the insistent protestations of love from Martin (all within the first five minutes) seems odd and clearly aimed for comic effect. But the film will not be content with that. As the story progresses it is clear that Martin is the catalyst to Lucas realizing his buried sexuality and finding true love and fulfillment. On the way, it is revealed that Martin is in the last stages of AIDS. This aspect of the story is somewhat softened to preserve the romantic aura, but the sense of impending loss on Lucas is what is key here, not the details of Martin's illness.
The filmmaker's paint a vivid picture of Marseille and seem as in love with the vistas as they are with the characters. Even interior sequences feature windows revealing magnificent views. As if to say, that the world cannot be shut out, and that life lies waiting just outside. The film's biking sequences are key to this sense of 'jois de vive'. Even taking cinematic risks does not derail this film. Having Martin's dead lover on screen during Martin's revelation about him seems a bit much, especially when he leans into the flame to blow out birthday candles. Later, Lucas searches an empty house for the absent Martin and camera trickery has Lucas turn up both at the beginning and end of a slow pan. And what gay film would be complete without the exotic? Enter Martin's mother Rose in a pink car and bearing a more than passingly resembling a drag queen on wheels. Their arm-in-arm exit from a church has the trio walk directly toward the camera and stop - smiling. As if a photographer was taking their wedding photo. Sadly, they are the sole members of the wedding party. But even this does not daunt them. They remain smiling. Staring at us.
THE MAN I LOVE is a unique adventure. Set aside your expectations and look beneath the surface (a pool analogy, yes) and you'll see a film that takes chances - and one that more often than not succeeds.
After seeing Brokeback Mountain, I've been adding to my film library
more gay-themed films. Because I'm a collector, I've been buying films
I haven't seen before.
Some of them are simply awful in their script, acting, and/or direction, but remain in my library because of the "piece of history" they represent. And once in a while, I hit upon a truly outstanding film that surpasses expectations in all these ways.
L'Homme Que J'Aime ("The Man I love") is one such hidden gem. The story is moving, the characters charming, the acting believable, and everything put together by a competent director.
Like Brokeback Mountain, the story involves an ostensibly straight man falling for another man, but this time, the object of his affection is an openly gay man. To Americans, that may seem to stretch the realm of possibility too far. I lived in France for a year, and the plot line seemed perfectly believable to me in the context of French culture. Note also that this film was made for French TV... which tells me that the story was considered "mainstream" enough to be broadcast in France.
This little gem of a movie is available on DVD, and I highly recommend it. In French, with optional English subtitles.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
------------((....watch for that first kiss......on the
CHAPTER I-----Wherein we are introduced to a wondrous and heart-lifting love, a love being given us...........
........by the French, who have long been renowned as masters of old-fashioned, romantic film-making, usually involving man and woman. But 'usually' is not the case here, because what they instead bestow upon us is a tale of a 'different kind of love'----one that is showcased in a marvelous, but largely unheralded, 1997 film entitled: "The Man I Love." Surprisingly made for French TV, this is an Aids-related story of gay love being found while at the same time being lost. It literally "vibrates" with a style that's been pretty much unique to the French. Unique, that is, until the more recent arrival of such gay-themed, American-produced titles as "All Over the Guy" and, newer still, "Latter Days" and "Brokeback Mountain." In these productions, US filmmakers at last approach the French in 'realistically' depicting gay love.....and by 'love' I mean a couple's not only making a total commitment to one another but doing so openly (except for "Brokeback"). Embarrassingly, up until around the year, 2000, American-based directors and their lead male couples never quite appeared to be completely and truly comfortable and at ease in the gay love they were attempting to put across on the screen. But it is just such a high level of comfort and ease which was earlier captured in "The Man I Love," a motion picture in which you can actually visualize love emerging and growing.....something that would seem impossible to capture on film.
Meet now the two male leads with whom we have been gifted:
--MARCIAL DIFONZO BO, as 'Martin'---an Aids victim not yet giving up on life or finding love, who instantly recognizes that love the moment he sees a blond-god of a man appear, in of all places, on the front edge of a high-dive board. 'Martin' until then had nothing to continue living for, but with this new love in his life, the impending loss he faces becomes emotionally catastrophic......for us as well. How this story prepares him for that coming loss, and how we are allowed to watch his setting up a legacy which will buoy his new lover when the loss does occur, is a touching and heart stirring tale.
--Most notably, though, we are presented the beautiful JEAN-MICHEL PORTAL, as blond 'Lucas' (that man on the board), in an uncanny characterization of one who, till now, has known only heterosexual love. Yet in this story he finds himself being faced with emotions of an entirely different nature.....emotions that he invites us in to watch as they "take him over." It is Portal's striking performance which allows the audience to actually see the growth and realization of this new, this different kind of love. Through his eyes, his facial expressions, and his body language, he does, indeed, present a love emerging (even though initially resisted) and growing. He begins his journey by almost reluctantly "giving up" his female lover/companion, as he commences "relating" more and more to 'Martin'. The movie viewer can virtually see his internal feelings for M. developing and "happening"......it's an experience akin to watching the "speeded-up-on-film" opening of a bud to blossom. Another way of saying this is, if you've heard the old expression about a person's "being bought out of their shell," then, here, with Portal's performance you can actually see someone undergoing such a transformation.
CHAPTER II----Wherein we are delightedly introduced to a Michelin Guide's Mother of all Mothers..........
........and the French do even this best. Actress, Vittoria Scognamiglio's 'Rose' is a 3-Star wonder to behold. She is every gay boy's "dream-delight" of a parent; a someone who even rid herself of a homophobic husband so that 'Martin' could grow to be who he should be.......happily and without fear. There's no one 'Me're Rose' would not take on who might stand in the way of her beloved son's full enjoyment of his time left.
EPILOG / EPILOGUE----Wherein we bid a fond farewell to..........
........our two terrific leading men: "Salut, Martin! // Salut, Lucas! Thank you for sharing your wonderful journey."
PS--This is, without doubt, an unusual film experience, and as one earlier reviewer said: "Repeated viewings only seem to make the story more meaningful." Now, please let me add: do not hesitate in adding it to your personal collection.
----------(Darling, je vous aime beaucoup /// Darling, I love you very much)-----------
"L'Homme que j'aime", which outside of France, is being shown as a theatrical movie at several festivals is an upbeat love story, albeit not your conventional love story. First, it is a gay love story. However, it is mainstream in that it is distributed by La Sept-Arte, and features Mathilde Seigner, one of France's most prolific youngish stars. This is a love story which conquers all. Seemingly unsurmountable difficulties are, at the end of the day, surmounted., and overall, the movie transmits a very positive message, unusual both in contemporary gay films and French films in general.
I Loved this movie. It was passionate, believable and just a beautiful film all the way around. One of those movies you don't just watch but you feel. Highly recommended for fans of foreign gay cinema! This director and all of the actors are superb!
An unexpected delight. This is a touching and moving exploration of both
coming out and the tragedy of love.
Delicate performances and a wonderful sense of humour permeate the story.
Even Marseilles seems as inviting as the arms of Martin.
Despite the underlying sense of oncoming tragedy it does not overwhelm the beauty of this simple modern gay love story.
Keep an eye out for the pink Mercedes Benz. It adds a little touch of the absurd to the mix!
A film to enjoy and savour many times!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The thing one could say about Stephane Giusti, the director of this
film, is that he is not afraid to present a gay story with dignity,
something that only Indie films could do in America. This made for
television drama captures two young men falling love with one another
and trying to deal with AIDS in a positive manner.
Martin has to take only one look at Lucas, the new man in the pool where he works, to fall for him. Lucas, alas, doesn't know he is gay. He lives with Lise, his girlfriend, but he succumbs to Martin's attentions because he sees a kind soul that loves him. At the same time, Lucas is not fair to Lise, dumping her without much warning.
This film fails to show a dying man, suffering from a horrible disease, in a realistic way. It appears the director and his team has not seen people in their last days, and what AIDS do to them. The great irony being, these people don't deserve to die from it. Martin, with his good dark looks, is not totally convincing he is a man facing a horrible end at all. In a way, we kept remembering another film, "Love Story", in which the heroine, also fighting a terminal illness, looks gorgeous until she dies.
Jean-Michel Portal and Marcial DiFonzo Bo, seen as Lucas and Martin, do a great job in the film. Mathilde Seigner, an actress we have admired throughout her career is convincing as Lise, the girl Lucas abandoned for another man. Vittoria Scognamiglio, plays Martin's mother, Rose, and she does justice to her name appearing in pink outfits and even driving a pink Mercedes!
Interesting characters make this movie so funny. I hope we can see more movies like this in U.S. Although filmed in 1997, this made-for-TV movie is sure a great one that will be remember for a long time in its genre. The movie is about being not afraid to love and to look for love no matter what the situation is, and always be true to yourself! Hopefully, there will be a distributor to release this film here soon.
Strange summary but let's face it- Jean-Michele Portal's excellent portrayal of "Lucas" reminds me of H of "CSI: Miami". Nearly emotionless, yet full of passion. Too bad American TV is not as sophisticated. I would be willing to bet that nothing was said against the film when it was screened on French TV. Try that in America, land of the free? I doubt it. What are people so afraid of? People in love? Amazing. A magnificent performance by the entire cast. The cute little church toward the end was very nice, as was the entire scenery. Many thanks for a realistic story that saves us the fluff but provides closure and meaning along with hope. Nobody is forgotten. Merci.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here in the US this movie is packaged as gay soft-porn, which it isn't.
That isn't to say that there aren't scenes of two guys in bed together
naked having sex; there are, but they aren't pornographic. Instead,
this is a perfectly decent but largely by-the-numbers made-for-TV
French movie that, like made-for-TV movies in the US at that time,
often dealt with some IMPORTANT SOCIAL ISSUE OF THE MOMENT, in this
Please understand, I do not by any means mean to trivialize the tragedy of AIDS, not at all. It is just that this movie is so predictable in its treatment of it, and so predictably uplifting that, even 12 years later when AIDS is no longer a death sentence, it seems like it is presenting everything through rose-colored glasses. Martin, who is gay, falls in love with Lucas, who thinks of himself as heterosexual and lives with a woman. Martin makes a good impression on Lucas' girl-friend for a variety of reasons, and through her gets to see Lucas socially as well as at work (the two men work at a natatorium, so Martin gets to see Lucas in a skimpy swimsuit for a living). It doesn't take long for Lucas to develop a liking for Martin, and eventually he leaves his understandably upset girlfriend for his new boyfriend. When Lucas discovers that Martin is in an advanced stage of AIDS - this in 1997, before all the treatments that have changed the meaning of those terms - he's upset, of course, but remains with Martin. There are fights and misunderstandings and reconciliations, etc. Lucas stays with Martin to the end, and even after his death still hears Martin whistling the song he used to whistle at work. Life goes on in a setting - Marseilles - that is always as pretty as the proverbial postcard.
Martin never goes through - or takes us through - the worst stages of AIDS, the dementia, the blindness, etc., but then not all AIDS sufferers went through that, and it is true that Martin does technically commit suicide by jumping into the swimming pool, in part to avoid such things. There is virtually NO issue of social ostracizing either because of the two men's homosexuality or because of Martin's AIDS, which even in 1997 France was not realistic. This is THE SERIOUS SOCIAL PROBLEM OF THE WEEK, but LITE; nothing to make the general television audience really uncomfortable.
All the acting is believable. Mathilde Seigner was then at the beginning of a career that has since moved on to the big times of feature films. She still plays the same annoying and in the end unpleasant character. Though the movie never makes an attempt to explain why Lucas eventually opts for a homosexual relationship rather than a heterosexual one, few men of any sexuality would have problems understanding why Lucas does not find it hard to leave her.
Some of the cinematography is very beautiful. The story is set outside Marseille, close to the French Riviera, and there are lots of beautiful scenes along the very beautiful coast that are shot very beautifully. There is also some intelligent cinematography, as when Lucas finds Martin's apartment empty and the pan shots of the empty rooms keep finding him in different places.
Still, in the end, this a a movie about beauty - beautiful places, beautiful weather, beautiful bodies - that does not want to stray too far from any of that into real ugliness, so it never does. I suspect I will have forgotten most of it within a week, but it was pleasant enough watching while it lasted.
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