The pornographer is the winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2001 Cannes Festival, demonstrating that there's a far higher pretension quotient among FIPRESCI juries than the general film-going populace. FIPRESCI juries are made up entirely of film critics. I knew this before, of course, since I've sat on four of them.The Pornographer isn't nearly as juicy as the title suggests, though Bertrand Bonello drops a big hardcore scene on us in the opening 10 minutes. The idea isn't to generate heat; it's to show the title character's degrading circumstances.
Once, back in the 70s, he was a distinguished director of porn movies. But now, saddled by debt and returning to the industry, he's out of touch with the contemporary audience and his producer overrides his instructions to the actors and cameramen.
What it's really about is alienation -- the distance between a father and a son, between the principal characters and the world they find themselves in.
It's a French midlife crisis movie! So be warned: you need a taste for long scenes where characters sit staring at each other or into space.
It's hard to say whether Bonello, a highly regarded young French director, is weak with actors or just decided that brooding was what he wanted these characters to do. He does have an undeniable eye, and there's an interesting contrast between his deliberately bland cityscapes and the painterly treatment of the film's rural scenes.
The Pornographer's coup is the casting of Jean-Pierre Léaud in the title role. Léaud carries the weight of the French New Wave in his performances, dragging behind him those youthful starring roles as Antoine Doinel for Truffaut in The 400 Blows and Stolen Kisses, and in the paranoid world of mid-60s Godard.
If Bonello sets the idealistic despair of Jérémie Rénier's Joseph, the pornographer's son, against the 60s generation, then there is also the unquestioned sense of defeat in his use of Léaud as an aging director who has lost his touch. email@example.com
THE PORNOGRAPHER written and directed by Bertrand Bonello, produced by Carole Scotta, with Jean-Pierre Léaud, Jérémie Rénier and Dominique Blanc. 106 minutes. An Haut et Court production. A Film Tonic release. Opens Friday (June 7). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 90. Rating: NNN