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"Les Invisibles" (The Invisible) of the title are a group men and women born between the two world wars. They have nothing in common except they are all gay and that they decided to be open about their homosexuality at a time when society rejected them. Despite general disapproval, they refused to deny who they actually were, thus maintaining their integrity. Today they talk before Sébastien Lifshitz's camera. Without hate. Without bitterness. With cheerful dignity. Written by
Invisible ? Not any more. And no longer inaudible.
The debate over gay marriage (called here "Marriage for all") has been a particularly heated one in France. Several hundreds of thousands of people have risen, demonstrating daily, at times violently, against... a new right which takes nothing away from anybody! Quite surprising in a society which seemed yet to have evolved, particularly after over ten countries adopted the measure without making waves. I guess none of these opponents (or at least not many) went to see Sébastien Lifshitz's documentary "Les Invisibles", which is a pity because a part of them could have been faced with the fact that homosexuals are people like all others, that there is love in gay couples as well and that it is accordingly unfair not to treat them on an equal footing with other citizens.
To be sure, being gay is no pleasure cruise yet in today's France, where a climate of homophobia is unfortunately growing. But it used to be much worse back in the nineteen fifties and sixties, the decades when the people interviewed in the film started their sexual lives. A time when coming out was out of the question. An era when society's tolerance existed only for artists but to a certain extent only (ah, those dirty jokes sullying the reputation of actors like Jean Marais or singers like Charles Trénet!) and when coming out was out of the question for the vast majority of gays. It is the hardship of living one's sex life when it does not fit into the framework imposed by society which is expressed by the elderly men and women interviewed by Sébastien Lipshitz in "Les Invisibles. In soft or curt but always candid words, Yann and Pierre, Bernard and Jacques, Catherine and Elisabeth, Monique, Thérèse , Jacques... will tell you as much about themselves as about the manners of times (not so long) past. With sensitivity, with intelligence, often with humor and always with humanity. What is sure is that Sébastien Lipshitz has chosen his interviewees with extreme care. Coming from various layers of French society, they all share a common point : their articulate ideas and expression.
Aside from this faultless relevance, "Les Invisibles" rises above the mere sociological statement : it is also an artistic achievement. Filmed in wide screen (which is seldom the case in documentaries), the movie benefits from a high quality cinematography and a neat sound design. Concerned about the scope of his subject, Sébastien Lifshitz keeps inscribing his "characters" within a frame always larger than them. Hence those beautiful shots of nature, at times not in direct connection with what they say, making them not only spokespersons for a cause but three-dimensional human beings.
I doubt Raymond Depardon ever intended to make a documentary about homosexuality, but supposing he did, the result would be very close to "Les Introuvables", an exemplary illustration of the genre.
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