February 1, 2023


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‘Passage’ review: A meltdown in Paris

4 min read

With “Passages,” American indie darling Ira Sachs (“Love Is Strange”) makes his film debut in France, a brutally honest portrait of a train-wreck relationship in which an openly gay director destroys his marriage — and possibly his life — to a By falling for a woman. Incidents happen, this is nothing new. But it proves unusually destructive, giving the three-star international cast — German actors Franz Rogowski (“Great Freedom”), Ben Whishaw (“The Lobster”) and Adele Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color”) — a chance to rip one off. . Others’ hearts are broken. Domestic interest will be limited, as it always is with Sachs’ shoe-heart-toggers, but if his last movie, “Frankie,” is selected for Cannes, “Passages” should be given a definite entry into Europe.

Like a less-atrocious, latter-day Fassbinder, queer auteur Thomas (Rogowski) is used to calling the shots. On set, the cast and crew put up with his annoyance. At home, longtime partner Martin (Whish) laughs at her needy husband’s pity. But this time, Thomas may have gone too far, hooking up with Agathe (Exarchopoulos) after the wrap party for his latest film, and the ensuing explosion is something to witness, like watching a toxic supernova collapse in on itself. In Paris. Which is by far the sexiest place for romance.

“You can say you’re happy for me,” Thomas challenges Martin, after confessing to the affair, transgressing about himself, as he does most things. Thomas is more than a mere narcissist; He’s a borderline sociopath, lying and manipulating to get what he wants, and a fitting companion piece to Sachs’s recent warts-and-all relationship study — 2012’s blisteringly personal “Keep the Lights On,” co-written by Mauricio Zacharias. -Written – observed the trail of destruction that such a personality leaves in its wake.

Sax for whom? There’s no question that she feels for Martin, a relatively mature if slightly co-dependent capable who is clearly scorned by Thomas. He also sympathizes with Agath, the young woman who is attracted to Thomas’ fame, as well as the idea that he might turn out to be a gay man, but sincerely wants to think that this one-night stand might have a future. Sachs even feels a certain amount of pity for Thomas, in which Helmer can see a certain amount of himself. As unrelatable as the character may be, Rogowski is an actor who can’t help but turn Thomas into some kind of monster. In fact, her outfits—eyelet sweaters and situationally-inappropriate crop tops—suggest more of a clown at times.

Sachs excels at investigating thorny, uncomfortable situations, treating all three characters here fairly, leaving the audience to decide which one they identify with. It should be said: Despite the striking similarities to the hit drama “Rooster,” the movie is not a serious portrayal of bisexuality. Agathe character could have been a man. The truth is that she doesn’t open “Passage” to a wider audience, and the women at the Sundance premiere seemed to gasp and laugh at the film. Meanwhile, the portrait of a tough and self-absorbed artist chimes with recent critiques of the industry’s misogyny — how power and celebrity bring a kind of entitlement — that gives the movie added cachet.

“It always happens when you finish a film. You just forget,” Martin reminds Thomas. This line captures the intelligent, soul-piercing quality we’ve come to expect from Schacht and Zacharias, who have now collaborated on five films together, resulting in the richest stretch of the director’s career. Instead of serving up a playlist of all the obvious high-drama scenes we think we want from a love-triangle movie, they’re just as likely to depict quiet, in-between moments, planting clues that hint at logic and order. Happened when the cameras weren’t in earshot, but any intelligent viewer could guess from the context

“Don’t be melodramatic,” Thomas tells Martin when the latter dares to call him out on one of his lies. This could just as easily be the film’s mantra, as Sachs dedicates himself to eschewing clichés without sacrificing truth. For all the raw emotional reality the director brings to his work, there is always a certain clumsiness in staging a scene. But each film brings him closer to his European art-house idols: Eric Rohmer, Maurice Pialat and, perhaps most relevant here, Jean Eustace. At times, “Passages” plays like an odd riff on Eustace’s landmark “The Mother and the Whore,” about a bourgeois twenty-something torn between two lovers who, instead of deciding, tries to force them into intercourse.

After Thomas takes Agathe away with her things, Martin quickly returns with Amad (Erwan Kepoa Fale), a rather upstanding French novelist. She knows the relationship will make Thomas jealous and it does. The thing with narcissists is that they can be annoyingly predictable. As if on cue, Thomas is back, having make-up sex with Martin. Sachs isn’t the least bit adamant about showing the audience how emotions look (or sound) in his characters, though this particular session goes on a bit longer and could have played better in their faces.

What happens next, no one saw coming, and rather than spoil it, suffice it to say that Thomas’s technique of self-absorption reaches new heights that he uses to suggest a ménage à trois — not a threesome, mind you, but a new domestic one. An arrangement where he can be surrounded by the two loves of his life, both of whom leave his ego behind. The movie argues that directors are asked to be selfish, autocratic jerks, in order to do great things, which can encourage such misconduct. But in the end, it’s Thomas who turns melodramatic, staging an over-the-top take-me-back scene that might have worked in some cornball Hollywood movie. Because Schacht’s films feel as if they are cut off from real life, this is a situation he cannot control.

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