Thursday, March 28, 2013

Water Drops on Burning Rocks




Based on a play by the legendary German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder entitled Tropfen auf heisse Steine, Gouttes d’eau sur pierres brulantes (Water Drops on Burning Rocks) is the story of a young man who meets an older man as they fall in love only for the relationship becomes complicated as two other women take part in this strange, unconventional relationship driven by this middle-aged man. Written for the screen and directed by Francois Ozon, the film is a look into how a young man and those around him are entangled into the web of a much older man who seems to dominate every aspect of their relationship. Starring Bernard Giraudeau, Malik Zidi, Ludivine Sagnier, and Anna Levine. Gouttes d’eau sur pierres brulantes is a witty yet stylish film from Francois Ozon.

The film is the story about a young man named Franz (Malik Zidi) who meets a middle-aged businessman named Leopold (Bernard Giraurdeau) in Germany as they engage into a romantic relationship. Yet, Leopold’s hold on Franz has left the young man anguished as he later receives a visit from his former fiancee Anna (Ludivine Sagnier) who comforts him until Leopold returns from a business trip with a former lover in Vera (Anna Levine) who was once a man who became a woman. Under Leopold’s sense of control and charm over the women, Franz finds himself disillusioned over Leopold’s idea of love. Told in four acts as if it was in a play as it’s all set inside an apartment in Germany, the film explores this young man’s relationship with a middle-aged businessman where his ideas of love and happiness are met with a world that is dark and cynical.

The screenplay by Francois Ozon explores the world of sexual interplay and romance as it involves a young man’s desire to gain experience under the wing of this older man. Yet, Franz becomes intrigued by Leopold where the two fall in love in the first act as Franz leaves his old life to be with Leopold yet things take a dark turn in the second half once Franz has to deal with Leopold’s compulsive yet controlling behavior while Franz later has his first glimpse of Vera who asks for Leopold though he wasn’t available. The second half when it goes into the third act reveal Franz’s anguish as he tries to find a life outside of Leopold only for things to go wrong until Leopold is out on a business trip and Anna arrives to visit where they re-kindle their love until Leopold’s return who also brings in Vera. There, things get complicated and problematic where Vera reveals to Franz a lot about Leopold and the chaos he brings to the people in his life.

Ozon’s direction is very stylish as he doesn’t spend a lot of time moving the camera around very much yet still maintains an air of beauty in his compositions. Even in the way he frames his actors in a scene while using a lot of repetition in certain scenes of the way he ends each act with the exception of the film’s finale. While Ozon injects some melodrama into the story in the way the characters deal with their situation, it is all told in a style that is similar to a play. While there is a moment in the film where the characters do break out of that sense of staging, it is still about that study of dominance and manipulation. Even as it would lead to dire consequences for some of the characters. Overall, Ozon creates a very provocative and mesmerizing film about love and deceit.

Cinematographer Jeanne Lapoirie does brilliant work with the film‘s lush photography from some of the look of the main living room with its dark colors and low-key lighting to some of the most gorgeous lighting for some daytime scenes in Leopold‘s bedroom. Editors Laurence Bawedin and Claudine Bouche do terrific work with the film‘s editing as it‘s mostly straightforward in some parts while it uses jump-cuts to create some interesting dramatic montages. Production designer Arnand de Moleron and set decorator Valerie Chemain do amazing work with the film‘s look of the apartments to complement the dark mood of Leopold where it seems comfortable but also chilling.

Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does nice work with the costumes as it‘s all very stylish in the clothes the men wear as well as the one the women wear. Sound editor Benoit Hillebrant does some very good work with the sound to capture the sense of intimacy that occurs in the scenes at the apartment. The film’s soundtrack contains a mix of music featuring some somber orchestral pieces from Gustav Mahler, Giuseppe Verdi, and George Frideric Handel as well as pop songs by Francoise Hardy and Tony Holiday.

The casting by Antoinette Boulat is superb as it features only four principle actors for this film where Anna Levine is wonderful as the melancholic Vera who is aware of Leopold’s deceit as she couldn’t help herself but be drawn to him. Ludivine Sagnier is excellent as Anna as a young woman who is trying to get Franz back in her life while being charmed by Leopold. Malik Zidi is terrific as Franz as a young man troubled by the relationship he’s taken upon himself in while trying to hold on to the idealism of love that he craves for. Finally, there’s Bernard Giraudeau in a brilliant performance as Leopold as he’s a man that is full of charm and wit but also someone who is quite controlling in his demeanor as he can change behaviors to suit what he craves for.

Gouttes d’eau sur pierres brulantes is a stellar film from Francois Ozon. While it may not have some of the more darker elements of some of his more well-known films. It is still an intriguing one for the way he takes an unreleased play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder to explore the world of sexual dynamics and desire. In the end, Gouttes d’eau sur pierres brulantes is a pretty good film from Francois Ozon.

Francois Ozon Films: See the Sea - Sitcom - Criminal Lovers - Under the Sand - 8 Women - Swimming Pool - 5x2 - Time to Leave - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - The Refuge - Potiche - In the House - Jeune & Jolie - (The New Girlfriend) - The Auteurs #33: Francois Ozon

© thevoid99 2013

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