Sunday, 19 November 2006

Le Clan (2004)

This review was originally posted on Ian's Personal Blog on 1st August 2006.

Le ClanLe Clan is very typical of most of the releases from Parasol Peccadillo, one of the few companies whose releases I tend to order, sight unseen, because of the quality of their choices of film. The company deal almost exclusively in 'gay art house' movies, and although they're quite pricey, and rarely carry any extra's, most of their choices leave you thinking about what you've seen for days afterwards.

Le Clan is no exception, although it's probably more homo-erotic than most of their releases, which tend more towards the 'art house' than 'gay' side of things. Variety described the film as 'one of the more unabashed filmic appreciations of male beauty since Wolfgang Petersen aimed a camera at Brad Pitt', which is overstating the case somewhat, but nobody could deny that the cast are all good looking and seem to spend a lot of screen time shirtless.

Le Clan tells the story of three brothers, each getting their own separately titled chapter, as the film progresses with a continuous story that jumps forward in time between each brother-centric chapter. Christophe, the oldest, is in prison for the first chapter and the two remaining brothers are missing him and their recently deceased mother. At the start of the film, Marc seems the strongest of the three brothers, running rackets and deals, and playing very much the macho thug of the estate on which he lives. But when a drug dealing gang take revenge on him for non payment of money owned he becomes bitter and twisted, and ultimately his hatred becomes the cause of his own self-destruction. Christophe returns from prison, having benefitted greatly from the experience. Almost the opposite of Marc, he has learnt to put bitterness behind him and move on, getting a good job, promotion and meeting his wife to be before the films over. Olivier, the baby of the three brothers, and the most sensitive (at least at the start of the film), is gay and has an intense relationship with a friend who he regularly fight-dances with, but ultimately drops him rather callously to move on to bigger and better things (fnaar! fnaar!). And that's pretty much the plot of the film, albeit with little episodes that illuminate the characters and their differences. For me 'art house' is nearly always about the journey rather than the destination, and this is no different, and I guess your like/dislike of it will depend on whether or not you like a nice clear story with a clear wrapped-up ending.

In America, the film is called Three Dancing Slaves, which may give a clue to the message the director, Gael Morel is trying to convey - that the brothers are slaves of circumstance perhaps. Personally, I found the film intriguing, well acted and beautifully filmed . One American critic rather unkindly referred to the film as like 'a movie made by Cadinot, without the explicit sex' (Cadinot is a 'famous' French gay pornographic film maker), which I think is rather unfair to this film - Cadinot, to my mind, makes porn, where Morel makes art. Admittedly, the homo-eroticism is rather over-the-top in places. In particular, there's one odd scene where the three brothers, two of whom are supposedly straight, snooze cuddled up together naked, while their fully-clothed father sits on a chair just watching them as they doze. It seemed to have nothing to do with the story that was being told, other than as a 'soft porn' moment designed to titillate, as the camera sweeps over two of the three naked (and soft - this is a 15-rated movie!) bodies! It's a very pretty shot, and one designed to help sell the film to the gay market, but not really relevant to the story being told, and rather contradicting the very macho, male culture that's being depicted overall in the film.

Total Film compared the movie favourably to La Haine, but I don't think it's really in that class. It is however thought-provoking and worth a viewing, whether you're gay or straight, unless 'art house' isjust one of those labels that automatically has you running in search of an action packed blockbuster to rent.

The DVD loses a mark for the lack of value-for-money - par for the course where Parasol Peccadillo, or any company releasing relatively obscure European movies, is concerned. The transfer is fine and the lack of good discount prices online is understandable, given the lack of interest in such 'minority' viewing, but the only extra is a trailer. It's hard to be too harsh about this because one suspects there are very few extra's to be had where European gay art house cinema is concerned. Pricing and lack of extra's aside, it's good to have a company putting out releases like this which would otherwise go largely unseen. Summer Storm and Hilde's Journey are another two excellent DVD releases from the company, made over the last few months, that I've enjoyed, but for various reasons never got around to reviewing on this blog, so their releases are well worth keeping an eye out for. Le Clan is one of the more recent releases and well worth a viewing!

Le Clan screencap

No comments: