François Ozon carries on in the vein of his immediately preceding and best film to date, 5x2, the reverse-chronology account of marital disintegration. That vein — stopping short of ninety minutes in both instances — evades the campy artifice of his 8 Women and his Water Drops on Burning Rocks, as well as the catty ambiguity of his Swimming Pool and his Under the Sand. It perhaps, in its emotional directness and emotional intensity, verges on the sentimental; and yet, just as that seemed unobjectionable in a film about the end of a relationship, it again seems so in a film about the end of a life: that of a self-absorbed thirty-one-year-old homosexual fashion photographer, every bit as gorgeous as his models, who blanks out in the midst of a humdrum photo shoot, learns he has an inoperable cancer (emphatically not AIDS, not a lifestyle thing, not a political thing), and chooses to go to his grave without a struggle, sooner rather than later. Unresolved personal issues — the sponging live-in lover, the mother who obstinately continues to look to him for grandchildren, the rejected divorced sister and the two unembraced children of her own — now become irresolvable, to be dealt with in untidy ways, as best as he's able. Hard for him though this is, the unfolding narrative remains free-flowing, even when diverted into flashbacks, smooth as a train of thought, unencumbered by heavy drama or profound epiphany. A few moving, movie-ish moments fight through the messiness: the final goodbye to his beloved grandmother, the only family member who, dying herself, has been entrusted with his bad news; the clandestine snapshots of his sister and her children in a public park, in violation of his strict aesthetic rule against family portraits; the solitary trip to the beach for a last ice cream, a last swim, a last sunset. Ozon's camerawork — cinematographer Jeanne Lapoirie's camerawork — is steady and controlled, the shots chosen with care and economy, as if to put a value on vision, a price on perception. And the color palette lays out a bright, rich, wide-screen world that seems a shame to leave. Melvil Poupaud, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Jeanne Moreau, Marie Rivière, Daniel Duval. (2005) — Duncan Shepherd
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