Sep 18, 2015
The New Girlfriend
This movie by François Ozon is what no American movie about the topic of transsexuality will ever be: a nuanced and smart look into the infinite subtlety and fluidity of human sexuality.
Here in the US, people are busy policing pronouns and creating labels, categories and sub-categories of sexual orientation. This insistence on putting people in monolithically labeled sexuality boxes seems too literal and petty to encompass what each one of us desires in the privacy of our own selves.
The wonderful Romain Duris (in his best performance to date) is David, a young husband and father who loses his wife to illness. Her best friend Claire (the also wonderful Anaïs Demoustier), has promised to take care of David and his baby and one day, as she jogs by their house, she walks in to find David dressed as a woman. At first she is offended and adamant that he is a pervert (everybody in this film is an upper-class, suburban Catholic), but then she starts feeling the pull of attraction towards this man who loves to dress up as a woman. They bond over shopping and secrets, and Claire finds she has feelings and fantasies that she had never entertained before. To watch her go from judgment to confusion, to curiosity, to anger, to fantasy and tenderness is the lovely miracle of the movie.
The plot could play as farce, but Ozon prefers to keep things intimate and full of feeling. To see Duris burst with happiness as he walks through the mall as a woman in heels and later to watch him grieve for the fact that he will never be the woman he wants to be is very touching, as is seeing Claire gradually allowing herself to be moved and enlightened by his plight.
In this movie, everyone seems straight as a post, but the moment someone comes out with a different hankering, this creates ripples in everyone. Hence Claire's husband (Raphael Personaz) evinces a tiny spark of interest when Claire tells him that David likes men (it's easier than explaining to him that he likes women but loves to dress as one). To add to the confusion, Claire ends up being in love with the woman in David. In Ozon's gleeful, generous fantasy, it all works out in the end.
Ozon playfully and tactfully suggests that the symbiosis between human emotions and sexuality is endlessly complex and mysterious, and that this is part of the fun, as well as the tears.