In anticipation of André Téchiné’s newest film, Being 17 (opening
this week), here’s an introduction to the French cineaste who may be
the best gay filmmaker alive—certainly the greatest that mainstream
media doesn’t know. That’s because gay filmmakers get celebrated
according to the size of their promotional budgets. But Téchiné, who
authentically portray gay experience, doesn’t need hype. His deeply
pleasurable movies mean he is the hype.
Téchiné’s characters—male, female, young, old—all fall into
difficult love or sex relationships, struggling to understand themselves
within shifting social units. Téchiné covers all gay experience and his
nimble, passionate filmmaking holds up over decades of shifting
fashions and topical issues. Here’s a four-part syllabus:
Politics and Ethnicity:
Les Innocents (1987) explored diversity before it
became a thing. France’s political and erotic tension ever since its
occupation of Algerian recurs in all his films, particularly Far (Loin, 2001).
The Heterosexual Matrix:
Téchiné addresses the spectrum of sexuality in the male-female romances of Barocco (1976), Rendez-vous (1985), Alice and Martin (1998), Strayed (2003).
Each film pursues identity through the ways that fantasy, psychology,
creative initiative and history intersect. Life, viewed with gay
consciousness, furthering the Visconti, Cocteau, Demy, Fassbinder
The Deneuve Psyche:
Catherine Deneuve, France’s glamorous grande dame, is Téchiné’s muse. But she is more than a fag hag. In My Favorite Season (1993), The Girl on the Train (2009), In the Name of My Daughter (2014), Changing Times (2004). Scene of the Crime (1987), and Hotel des Amerique(1981),
Big Cat magnifies social and personal desire like such larger-than-life
gay icons from Dietrich to Garland, Monroe to Cher.
I Don’t Kiss (J’embrasse Pas, 1991) - Pierre (Manuel Blanc) leaves the provinces to try acting, escorting, and discovering himself in Paris.
Unforgivable (Impardonnables, 2011) - Bisexual
Judith (Carole Bouquet) begins an affair with Francis (André
Dussollier) whose promiscuous daughter unbalances the middle-aged
The Bronte Sisters (1979) - An
experimental bio-pic exploring the interwoven emotional ties of the
legendary literary family. A sumptuous costume drama with gorgeous
stars: Isabelle Adjani as Emily, Isabelle Huppert as Anne, Marie-France
Pisier as Charlotte; Pascal Greggory as their brother Branwell, and
Roland Barthes (Téchiné’s mentor) as Thackery.
Thieves (Les Voleurs, 1996) - Téchiné’ transposes Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury onto a bisexual triangle between Deneuve, Daniel Auteuil, and Laurence Cote—a sensual, intellectual advance on Sunday, Bloody Sunday as Téchiné ingeniously splits time and memory.
French Provincial (Souvenirs d’en France, 1975) - A 75-year family epic told in 90 minutes.
A patriarchy becomes a matriarchy headed by Jeanne Moreau, while each
decade reflects the ongoing history of movie genres. This was Téchiné’s
American debut and his knowledge of high and low culture makes, perhaps,
his most dazzling film.
The Witnesses (Les Temoins, 2007) - The
AIDS-era as felt by survivors who recall Manu (Johann Libereau), a
country boy who becomes a hustler; his affair with Medhi (Sami Bouajila)
changes the lives of an interracial middle-class family.
Wild Reeds (Les Roseaux Sauvages, 1995) - Still
the greatest of all coming-of-age films, Téchiné follows four teenagers
caught-up in the tumult of rock-n-roll, movies, politics, and sexual
discovery. Best friends Francois (Gael Morel) and Maite (Elodie Bouchez)
are both attracted to Serge (Stephane Rideau), the working-class rival
of bourgeois conservative Henri (Frederic Gorny). Raw emotion in nature
and changing society seen with nostalgia and generosity of a great