French queer filmmakersOlivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s seventh feature, PARIS 05:59: THÉO & HUGO alludes as much to Agnès Varda’s CLEO FROM 5 To 7 in its relation to the real-time plot device, as to Richard Linklater’s BEFORE… trilogy, where two individuals are trying to build something intimate and meaningful through small talks in a spontaneously perambulating pace.
But, as a testimonial to the filmmakers true grits, the film takes a bold and sensational initiative to instantaneously put off the prudish and conservative alike, by kicking off the movie with a lurid hardcore sex orgy inside an iridescent bar through the eye of a predator seeking his preys, and then setting its focal point to our two titular protagonists struck by coup de foudre and beginning to consummate their libidinous thrusting in the accompaniment of trippy beats and day-glo lights, but with a consequence, which Ducastel-Martineau duo tactfully explores as the brunt of what happens later that night when they exit together from the bar at 04:47 A.M.
The film does a cracking job in establishing the“sex first, love later” scenario in a post-AIDS 21st century, when carnal impulse receding, the two strangers, both are satisfying with their physical encounter, make tentative steps to know each other from the scratch, and their bonhomie hits a halt when a felix culpa pans out, and the duo must re-connect their rhythm and re-consider their possible future within an approximate one-hour time-line as the film finishes precisely at 06:00.
More often than not, a film hyped by unsimulated sex sequences would suffer from being made light of its less grandstanding elements, for example, Ducastel-Martineau duo’s apt punctuation with commentaries concerning those socially marginalized and often neglected: a hospital devolves the night shift to its distaff employees, homophobia vituperation pelted to the sexuality minority, a Syrian immigrant’s perspective on freedom and a senior chambermaid’s impromptu babbling (and a resultant blooper for the sharp-eyed), all add a touch of political angel but never overstay their welcome.
The two leads are giving a wholesomely winning and empathetic performance (if it sounds like an understatement after their corporeal sacrifice of leaving nothing to imagination), Geoffrey Couët inhabits a somewhat rustic complexion into Théo’s wide-eyed-ness, andFrançois Nambot as Hugo, often takes the lead in their conversation with his youthful urbanity and amiability, a smitten, can-do spirit has no affectation and pretension, which makes the ineffable ending such a boon to be appreciated, not just for their hard-earned chance, but also forDucastel-Martineau’s ingenuity and seeming effortlessness (a keen eye of a nocturnal locus under the unadorned lighting arrangement) of conjuring up something extraordinarily honest, heartfelt and aesthetically arrestingout of an ordinary story arc, it is never too soon to signpost this film as the new landmark in today's ever-progressive queer cinema-scape, because the battle hasn’t been (completely) won yet.
referential points: Andrew Haigh’s WEEKEND (2011, 8.1/10); Agnès Varda’s CLEO FROM 5 To 7 (1962, 7.0/10); Alain Guiraudie’s STRANGER BY THE LAKE (2013, 8.4/10), Richard Linklater’s BEFORE… trilogy.