“Pleasure, Love and Run Fast:” film review of “Sorry Angel”


Photo courtesy of the Cannes Film Festival

Vincent Lacoste and Pierre Deladonchamps star in “Plaire, Aimer, et Courir Vite” (“Sorry Angel”), directed by Christophe Honoré.

Milena Martinovic, Reporter

The 22nd annual French Film Festival took place from Feb. 15 – 21 at the Prytania Theatre. The film festival isn’t just for foreign cinema lovers: New Orleans, deeply rooted in French culture from history to cuisine, celebrates France through its strong, specific visual art as well. It is an opportunity for the local audience to see films they otherwise would not get a chance to know or see anywhere else.

French cinema is at once intimate and public, crude and intellectual, consisting more of character studies rather than a formulaic Hollywood three-act story structure.

“Sorry Angel” is a good example. The film is similar to a novel: its story consists of many scenes of the two characters’ worlds and their interactions with their part-time lovers, friends, roommates and family members.

The film follows two gay men and their relationship starting as a casual fling in Paris in the early 1990s. One is a prominent 30-something author, Jacques, who has a son, while the other is a 22-year-old college student Arthur, who has still not fully accepted his own sexuality. He is in a relationship with a woman, although he “cruises” the park by the river for gay hookups.

The fact that the author is HIV-positive in Paris in the early 1990s is delivered casually and unsentimentally; after all, he is surrounded by friends and the lingering AIDS epidemic. He is dry and bitter in general, so his life almost continues as normal, not changing him on the surface.

This is the beauty of French cinema: the characters usually are unsentimental until we see them in the moment of despair, cathartically eliciting pity from the viewers when they least expect it. There is a moment like that in the film by the end; even Jacques’ harshness and cruelty toward his dying friend can perhaps be somewhat excused, because he struggles with his own mortality.

Jacques and Arthur meet at the movies where Arthur, an aspiring film student, is watching “Piano” and trying to like it. Jacques walks in to escape the crowd and gather himself before his book signing, and there is instant sexual chemistry.

However, the film fails to turn this into something deeper. We follow each character’s life and they kind of stay in touch, Arthur living in Brenton and Jacques in Paris. But the fling never truly escalates to something deeper, though the film tries.

The original title in French translates to “Pleasure, Love and Run Fast,” a title that may reflect Jacques’ fear of love. Even though the auteur of the film, the diverse and unpredictable Honore, tries to show that there is something meaningful there, he does it mostly through young Arthur. However, the lack of sentimentalism we are conditioned to see in movies comparable to this one, such as “Blue is the Warmest Color,” or even more recently, “Call Me By Your Name,” leaves the audience feeling a tad dry, unfulfilled, and as if the audience were missing the emotional backbone of the film.