Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Rivoire and Frantz Hoffmeister were practically like the Crittenden siblings in
the American Civil War. The two friends were as close as brothers, yet the
Frenchman and German wound up on opposite sides of World War I. The former
survived, but the latter did not. Yet, Rivoire’s unexpected presence becomes
strangely comforting to Hoffmeister’s parents and his fiancée in François Ozon’s
Frantz (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in New York.
almost became Anna Hoffmeister, but she lives with her intended in-laws anyway,
like a dutiful widow. She is rather surprised to spy a stranger leaving flowers
at Frantz’s grave, especially when he turns out to be French. Oddly, she had
never heard of her not quite husband’s close friend from Paris, but she is
moved by his genuine grief. At first, Hoffmeister’s father is standoffish, but
soon the entire family takes consolation from Rivoire’s fond remembrances.
Anna’s relationship with Rivoire becomes heavier and more emotionally complex.
Yet, she also starts to suspect he harbors a secret, which he does, but the
press notes duly entreats us not to reveal it.
Frantz is billed as a
loose riff on Ernst Lubitsch’s Broken
Lullaby that also shares similarities with a certain Daniel Vigne film, but
Ozon takes it in a completely different direction. Arguably, nothing works out
according to our hopes and expectations at the midway point, yet there is an
elegant perfection to its ultimate conclusion. Like the best films, Frantz satisfies while it surprises.
not exactly an unknown quantity, Paula Beer (a good German name if ever there
was one) is a true revelation in Frantz.
She convincingly portrays Anna’s lingering sorrow, but that is just the tip of
the iceberg. It is a subtle but wide-ranging performance that touches on the
full gamut of human feeling. Pierre Niney (one of the dueling Yves Saint Laurents) plays Rivoire with great sensitivity, as well as the conspicuous
Frenchness the role demands, while Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber further
reinforce the film’s elegiac sophistication as the dignified and grief-stricken
Doktor and Magda Hoffmeister.
Ozon is an unusually prolific and generally
reliable filmmaker, but Frantz represents
one of his most assured works. It ranks with his masterful In the House, which was released four full years ago. It is also
incredibly striking, thanks to Pascal Marti’s luminous black-and-white
cinematography, which justly won this year’s César Award. Very highly
recommended, Frantz opens tomorrow
(3/15) in New York, at Film Forum.
Labels: Francois Ozon, French Cinema