Avant que j'Oublie (Before I Forget) Reviews
'BIF is not an easy watch.' Boy, are you not kidding with that statement. As a moviegoer who likes to like movies, it takes a lot to have me eyeing the exit door during a movie or start to make a mental shopping list. However, this had negatives piling up and up as it went along its tedious way.
For a start it is almost completely flaccid in terms of narrative. Then if we look at it from the perspective of the observation movie of human-in-throes-of-existential-nightmare, it fails because the protagonist's character is so a) unlovable and b) essentially uninteresting. Much of the film saw Nolot's character pacing about at home, writing, sipping and smoking: this is not enough to draw the viewer into his world, his dilemma, his misery. Chain smoking does not equal pain. Even as metaphor for misery, constant sparking up doesn't remotely do it. Our man simply appears boring, therefore we are bored.
Our hero's friends are repellant too, but, I suspect, aren't meant to be. They present the homosexual at his most unappealing: superficial, self-absorbed and sex obsessed to a painful degree. The man who accepts payment for his services in terms of delivering a blow job is grim watching at the ethical and moral level. As a straight man, I wasn't remotely thrown out of stride by the the pretty gay frank sex, but to observe the moral and personal degregation of the receiver was interesting only to consider the utter awfulness of the remains of this supposed late Parisian demi-monde. If the film maker is not able to make capital out of such an exchange, and for me this auteur absolutely wasn't, then it only remains for the viewer to critically damn the film.
So, grimly unsympathetic characters, no narrative energy, rotten film.
And so to some of the reviewers hereabouts. Comments on the lighting and the visual presentation all round are laughable. The comment on the chiaroscuro of the naked protag making coffee (comparisons with Bacon, etc) are at best deeply mistaken, at worst, pathetic. Cinematographically, the film was unremarkable. The positive vote for the music was utterly hysterical: there WAS no music until a very late entry of some portentous orchestral navel gazing courtesy of Gustav Mahler. If this was intended to heighten the drama, it failed. Rather it only emphasized the fact that the failure of the film maker to leaven his drudgery represented a bsd mistake. One of the arts of great movie making is to present the awfulness of some folk's existence as tolerable, watchable, gripping even. This was existential predicament as something patently unwatchable, so utterly lame was it.
All this said, for our gay friends, the movie-going experience here may well have been absolutely absorbing and I would respect such a view totally. As a heterosecual, what do I know about how this film would reach into the emotional space of the homosexual? So let me qualify my conclusion. This was a monumentally wretched movie if you're straight. It's a shame that the liberal press (of which I remain a consumer, as a liberal) is in the grip of a moral cowardice. Why couldn't at least some of them pan this movie? Because no liberal intellectual in the present day dares to challenge the ridiculous iron grip of those who wield the sword of political correctness in the media.
Such is cultural life in the United Kingdom at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.
And yet, I was quite glad to have seen this movie. Only by watching the truly bsd can we wholly grasp the wonder of the truly great. I held fairly constant conversations with my pal during the movie, breaking my strict moral movie-going code, but this was the only way I could hold on for the last hour (Dan wanted to go for a beer and he isn't even much for drinking), but I was glad, for the above reason that I did. And there was one moment of high mirth. 'The only thing I'm interested in these days is suicide,' says Notot at one point. Oh, how we giggled. It isn't enough to mouth miserable words to emotionally engage the audience: our hilarity was in the director's complete failure to understand one of the obvious truths of film making.
"Before I Forget" is essentially plotless, its strength lies in the well observed daily routines and its decision to use truly human characters instead of the trite caricatures so often found in gay-themed film. It's not a film to love, but one to keep in the back of your mind as your own twilight days begin to loom. Will you or I be able to lurch forward with the same quiet, public dignity as Nolot? Only time will tell.
Well, in this case, they try to maintain their health and their wealth. They hire rent boys and worry about staying in the wills of their former lovers.
I agree with some of the reviewers that there are a lot of inert shots and seeming digressions. But as others have pointed out, there aren't so many cinematic analyses of the aging queer, from the perspective of the aging queer, so I think that it's worth sitting through the long shots to get a sense of what this man's life is like.
I didn't really buy the drama around the lost inheritance. Pierre (played by and based on Jacques Nolot, the director) admits that he broke up with his former benefactor and doesn't seem to treat him very well. So I can't get that outraged about losing the inheritance. I don't really think people have a right to inherit anyway.
If there is a moral to the story, I think it's about the first rentboy we see in the film, who is also the last one we see. He seems to know Pierre well. He tells Pierre he wants to take him to the Pigalle. He, the rentboy, will be Pierre's pimp and Pierre will be in drag.
At the end of the movie, Pierre is chatting with someone (maybe it's his analyst) and concludes that what he would like is a witty, clever, attractive young man in his life. And then he calls up this first rentboy and they go to the Pigalle, Pierre in drag.
That final scene is wonderful. It's the first time we get music, and the music we get is over-the-top fateful/romantic. Pierre is in a dramatic black wig and a spiderwoman black dress. We get many long shots of her smoking a cigarette in the entryway to an x-rated film theater. The scene is to die for and worth the long pauses in the rest of the movie!
There are other little witty moments--discussions between the older men about the price of rentboys. 100 euros seems appropriate if they come to your place. And he has one service that seems to combine delivering groceries and sex! Paris is so civilized!
Love, desire, HIV, AIDS, how much you wana pay for be "alive", how much pills you wana take? How long wana wait until die? How much wana pay for "feel" and have company? How much?