Mediocre: 5×2

5×2 (2004)

Directed by François Ozon
Written by François Ozon, Emmanuèle Bernheim
Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier, Philippe Dugay
Starring Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Stéphane Freiss, Françoise Fabian, Michael Lonsdale, Géraldine Pailhas, Antoine Chappey, Marc Ruchmann, Jason Tavassoli, Yannis Belkacem


In counter-chronology, a quintet of momentous episodes scratch the surface of a failed marriage’s bitter divorce, advoutry confessed and concealed, triste parturition, rapturous wedding and its racy reception, and transitional inception at a waterside Italian resort.


As usual, Ozon’s superficiality is betrayed by his lascivious emphases, but his tendentious portrayal of this movie’s two-dimensional characters and their respective turpitudes is especially galling. In the most blatantly partial example, a longsuffering wife (Bruni-Tedeschi) quietly endures chagrin while her husband (Freiss) narrates his participation in an orgy to his brother (Chappey) and his boyfriend (Ruchmann); on their wedding night, her fling with a handsome American (Tavassoli) is treated as an erotically condonable caprice. Ozon weirdly, habitually abstracts to denigrate heterosexuality, but his worst misdeed here is to peddle nullity as arcana. Discordant from the tenderness with which he treats his son and wife, Freiss’s cullion is elsewise unaccountably desperate, abusive, petty, remiss, and craven in contrived contradistinction to his better half. No causation can be clearly charged to his quasi-rape contiguous to the finalization of their divorce, anguished absence during his son’s birth, or wanton harassment of his wife. His demonization of straight men demonstrates this filmmaker’s inability to concoct substance behind semblance of obscenity, much less dredge insights therein. By the pen and lens of a Rohmer, Aurel, Blier or Téchiné, such a quintipartite narrative would yield fruit of a sort that he hasn’t the depth or humanity to pick.


None of the reprehension above pertains to Ozon’s perfectly professional direction, whereby his handsome cast is framed in potent foci that don’t detract from palpable ambiences in ordinary and idyllic settings. That doltish gimmickry that impairs his sequent efforts was years forthcoming, as were innumerable posts to fora by fans who agonize to extenuate or rationalize it.


As for other movies by Ozon and Olivier Assayas, Yorick Le Saux here works his verve for high contrast abounding in pitch blacks, and coordination of cool and brilliant colors.


Her contributions are smoothly unnoticeable until Monica Coleman’s abrupt cuts powerfully, proximately communicate intervallic omissions.


Not one false note vitiates rigorous performances by Bruni-Tedeschi, Freiss and most of their co-stars, who commit to their parts with a subtle mimesis that indues verisimility even to Ozon’s weakest codswallop. Coarsely compulsive Fabian and Lonsdale are almost wasted playing the spatting parents of Bruni-Tedeschi’s wife and mother. Tavassoli’s painfully stiff delivery is the sole exception to this concerted merit.


Like the aforementioned acting, two moving, lushly orchestrated themes courtesy of Philippe Rombi are too good for this picture, as are other musical selections by Paolo Conte, Bobby Solo, Wilma Goich, Luigi Tenco, Nico Fidenco and Gino Paoli that predominate on its soundrack.


Nicely registered reactions between lines may be the best reason to view this. A beautifully conclusive wide shot of the Mediterranean offing from a Sardinian strand fades to black upon sundown, patefying how this Parisian shoots with a grace that he can’t write.


Aside from Ozon’s cheap characterizations and vacuous foundation, both Chappey’s and Ruchmann’s, and Lonsdale’s and Fabian’s pairs are more intriguing than the protagonistic spouses.


This is what Téchiné, Pialat, Breillat, or the Dardenne brothers would’ve produced were they as shallow as Michael Bay. Ozon wears his influences on his sleeve, but his well-crafted ersatz is immediately discernable from a complete story about complete people.

Instead, watch We Won’t Grow Old Together.

Execrable: Young & Beautiful

Young & Beautiful (2013)
Written and directed by François Ozon
Produced by Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer
Starring Marine Vacth, Géraldine Pailhas, Frédéric Pierrot, Fantin Ravat, Johan Leysen, Charlotte Rampling, Nathalie Richard, Djedje Apali
If Ozon fancied he might in seasonal address of teenage prostitution anatomize its risk and lascivity with an atom of the art or pizzazz produced by Buñuel, Pasolini, Imamura, Fassbinder, Eustache, Breillat, et al., he’s as deluded as facile…as his broody, anemic adolescent (Vacth), who after her disappointing devirgination with a cute, Teutonic teen on holiday moonlights as a call girl until a copulatory tragedy obliges vice officers to disclose this extracurricular occupation to her mother (Pailhas). From its coastal commencement through a largely artless third act during which elaboration of meretricious motivations and a series of tired contrivances are belabored, the pinchbeck Pialat slathers sentimentality into a regurgitation of shots poached from superior pics with the adipose cream of old tracks by Françoise Hardy as slushy as Philippe Rombi’s score, inconsonantly picturesque photography courtesy of Pascal Marti, and scenes in which Rimbaud’s Romance is recited, then expounded by Vacth’s dull doxy and her classmates: a cheap insinuation that this flaccid, specious celebration of acokoinonia shares any such passion or perspicacity. Naught save some fatuous satisfaction in her own sexual power and a nearly uncharacteristic moment of grief may be observed in the sullen trull, tarted and trudging sulkily from one dismally anaphrodisiac congress to the next, and as Ozon can’t fathom women with any greater acuity than heterosexuality (as attested by his 5×2), his deficit of insight regarding the intellectual or emotional limitations that elicit premature promiscuity results in a flick as empty as its protagonist. There’s an especially inexcusable shortcoming, as numerous gay filmmakers from Cukor to Almodóvar to Araki have evinced an unfailing apprehension of straights and the fairer sex, but this critical darling approaches both as does Branagh the Bard’s masterworks: with a manner as melodramatic as peculiarly puerile, paired to overproduction. Harshly attractive Vacth reflects this inscience; selected by a poor eye for distaff lure, she’s surely the most unappealingly pretty principal in recent memory, photogenic yet oddly barren of presence. Rampling’s in typically (if temporally) fine form as the wife of an elderly john in a conclusion that very nearly conveys some human signification, but like so much else, her poise is merely redolent of better roles. If this dyslogy seems overtly referential, one must consider how grossly Ozon courts comparison with truly great cineastes, and how abashingly far short he falls, regardless of the press’s purchased praise.
Instead, watch The Insect Woman or Sleeping Beauty.