On the heels of “120 beats per minute,” a unanimous hit last year in Cannes, is Christophe Honoré’s “Plaire, aimer et courir vite,” a film that’s in the running for a Palme D’Or. Like “120,” “Plaire” is set in the nineties and conjures up memories of a catastrophic decade for the gay community, one in which the gay community was decimated by the AIDS virus.
In “Plaire,” which the Bretagne-born Honoré wrote and directed, an ironic but wise fortysomething Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps, of “Stranger by the Lake” fame) encounters Arthur, an exuberant young male (Vincent Lacoste), who will leave his native province to be with his older lover. Arthur, who lives in the moment, is a romantic idealist, far removed from the preoccupations of Jacques, worn-out and wasted and seeming to find shelter in the thought that he may just kill himself. Is it AIDS that made Jacques bitter and sarcastic, or his trade? Novelists were never easy types to be around, so it’s hard to tell.
There is much going on in this film, but not all of the ingredients are in service of cinema. Honoré shoots movies in a frank and upbeat manner, but, absent a unifying motif, “Plaire” meanders. Instead of a well-contained film, we’re served up one long existential session punctuated by encounters (with friends, family and neighbor), sound colliding with images, diegetic and non-diegetic music occurring in turn, one scene chasing after another one. It’s pleasant to watch, but one can’t help but ask, why make the movie?
Watching Jacques struggle with a disease that persecutes him is nearly impossible to do, “Plaire” being the most tragic film I have seen at the Cannes Festival in years, it almost makes one wonder, did we really need to see another movie about gays in the nineties, so soon after “120 beats per minute?”
Of note is the fact that one of France’s most eminent actors, Denis Podalydès, has a part in the film as Mathieu, the neighbor who lives above Jacques’s apartment.
For its bitter tenderness and humanity I give “Plaire, aimer et courir vite” 3 stars.