Haven't sampled anything yet from the 15th annual lesbian and gay film and video fest? Get out. It's wrapping up this weekend.
Côte D'Azur directed by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau. 90 minutes. Subtitled. Closing gala of the Inside Out Toronto Lesbian And Gay Film And Video Festival, Sunday (May 29), 8 pm. Isabel Bader (93 Charles West). $26.75. 416-967-1528, www.insideout.ca. For complete fest listings and info, see Indie & Rep Movies, page 110. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau are partners in every sense of the word. They live together, they fuck together and they create movies together. Just not all at the same time.
And here they are on the line together, talking on a speaker phone from Paris about their Inside Out gala closer, Côte d"Azur.
"Jacques is a little tired," warns Ducastel. "He just got back from teaching at the university."
I hear some whispering in the background, en français.
"Oui," I finally hear, from a fatigued Martineau.
Not since Merchant met Ivory has there been such a consistent filmmaking team, gay or straight.
Then again, those dusty, fusty Merchant-Ivory films never explored contemporary queer lives with the energy, vigour and low-budget inventiveness of Ducastel and Martineau.
The Parisian pair first reaped attention with their 1998 debut Jeanne And The Perfect Guy, an AIDS-themed musical romance. They then broke out with their charming, touching Funny Felix (2000), about an HIV-positive Dieppe man of Arab origin who hitchhikes across France to connect with his biological father and ends up meeting members of a substitute family along the way.
Côte d"Azur is a breezy farce about a married couple with teenaged children holidaying in a cottage in the south of France. Before the first bottle of wine gets uncorked, people are basking in the sun and airing their sexual secrets.
"It"s not a documentary," says Ducastel when I ask about the genesis of the character of Marc (Gilbert Melki), a middle-aged married man with a gay past who gets nervous when he thinks his own son might be queer.
"The funny thing is, when we were discussing the project we met a couple of men who had similar stories. They had had children when they were younger. It"s not uncommon."
Just as Marc has a secret, so too does his wife, Béatrix (the vivacious Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), whose lover has followed her to the cottage and lurks in the bushes wearing nothing but his cellphone.
With its door-slammings and sexual shenanigans - not to mention its scenes of teen boys jerking off in showers - the film lands squarely in the classic tradition of French sex farce. And as everyone knows, comedy is harder than it looks.
"We had to really concentrate and focus," says Ducastel. "We were probably more serious than on all the other films. You have to shoot a lot of film for a comedy, because it"s all about finding rhythms. It can be dangerous. If people laugh a lot on the set, it won"t translate to the screen."
In the same way that Funny Felix was quietly subversive on the subject of race, AIDS and non-traditional families, so Côte d"Azur makes a subtle case for gay parenting.
"We"d like to change people"s ideas about all that," says Martineau. "But we"re not sure we will. Not everyone goes to the movies in France."
The issue of same-sex unions is as hot in France as it is in North America, but with a difference. Gays and lesbians can get civil partnerships, but things get tough when you want to adopt a child.
"If you"re single you can adopt, but if you"re with a gay partner you can"t," says Ducastel. "It"s very hypocritical. That"s why a lot of people are fighting for marriage rights. They think if they get married they"ll be able to adopt children."
Martineau, tired as he is, chimes in. "Even people who claim to be left-wing are absolutely against the idea of adoption or artificial conception," he says. "Right now, lesbians cannot be inseminated at a clinic. They have to go to Germany or Holland. Or find a friend with some sperm and a spoon."
Martineau and Ducastel have been in a civil partnership for years, and aren"t interested in adopting.
"I feel like I"m too old now," says Ducastel. "Maybe 10 years ago I could have taken it more seriously."
So their babies remain their films. They split the responsibilities, Ducastel taking on most of the directing, Martineau most of the writing.
"We are not the kind of people who like to argue or fight," says Ducastel when I ask whether work interferes with their relationship.
"Sometimes we have a small argument, but never in front of the crew. We try not to speak at the same time in front of the actors, and we are very careful to say things in the same direction."
Their biggest collaboration, says Ducastel, comes in the editing room.
"One of us is on the left side, and one on the right," he laughs. "For the editor, it can be confusing. It"s like working with a director with two heads."
COTE D'AZUR (Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau) Rating: NNN
Sun, sex and silliness on the French Riviera - what's not to like about Côte D'Azur, the latest by Funny Felix filmmakers Ducastel and Martineau?
Family man Marc (Gilbert Melki) has brought his wife, Béatrix (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), and teenaged kids to the Mediterranean family cottage where he spent many summers years earlier. When their sons friend comes for a visit, the couple start wondering if their boy is gay. Suddenly, secrets of all sorts start coming out of the houses multiple closets.
There are plenty of cute, campy moments, including some bizarre musical interludes. The directors pull back from making a queer American Beauty, with the dad lusting after the sons friend. Instead, they navigate middle-class French tastes as carefully as the gay characters navigate the cruisy sand dunes.
Fresh performances from the whole bunch, especially Bruni Tedeschi as the sex-positive, liberal wife. The dénouement sparkles like a good rosé.