Frantz

François Ozon is nothing if not a restless filmmaker. Despite his ridiculously prolific rate (he’s the Woody Allen of France, churning out one to two films a year), he seems adverse to ever being labelled an auteur. He’s tackled everything from a classic Gallic farce (Potiche), to a murder mystery (8 Women), to an erotic thriller (Swimming Pool), all with varying degrees of success. With an Ozon movie, you never quite know what you’re going to get.

Poster for the post-war romantic drama FrantzOzon is often at his best when working with women, and he has a fabulous talent in Paula Beer to bring his protagonist, Anna, to vivid life. She’s stunning in the role.

When we first meet Anna, she’s understandably morose and quiet, having recently lost the love of her life, Frantz, to war. She lives with her ex-fiancé’s parents, who would like to marry her off to another German suitor, but she’s unwilling to entertain the option. She perks up with the surprise arrival of Adrien (Pierre Niney), a lanky Frenchman with a sexy moustache, who claims to have been close friends with her late partner. Initially, Frantz’s father wants nothing to do with the man (‘Every French man is my son’s murderer,’ he snarls). Adrien proves to be such a charming presence, however, that even Anna’s family soon come around to embracing him.

Not long into Frantz, Ozon boldly shifts from black & white to full-blown colour for some key sequences. The flashbacks, recounting Adrien’s time spent with Frantz in Paris (they tour the Louvre; Adrien teaches Frantz how to play the violin), do away with the gloomy aesthetic, as does a lovely scene that sees Anna and Adrien grow closer over the course of a long hike in the mountains.

Ozon tends to favour a twisty narrative, and again offers a juicy one here that makes further plot description impossible. Suffice it to say that the film’s best stretch involves Anna journeying to Paris and take on a more active role as detective. It’s thrilling to watch such a sullen character finally take flight.

– Nigel M. Smith, The Guardian


François Ozon (Dans la maison, Une Nouvelle amie, Huit femmes) nous a souvent manipulés, provoqués, amusés. Cette fois, le réalisateur nous émeut jusqu’aux larmes. Frantz est son film le plus bouleversant depuis Sous le sable, où Charlotte Rampling ne pouvait accepter la mort de son mari.

C’est à nouveau un deuil impossible qui est au point de départ de cette histoire magnifique. Dans une petite ville allemande, juste après la Première Guerre mondiale, une jeune femme, Anna (Paula Beer, la révélation du film), se recueille tous les jours sur la tombe de son fiancé Frantz, mort au combat. Elle y surprend un inconnu en pleurs (Pierre Niney), en train de déposer des fleurs : il est français, s’appelle Adrien, affirme avoir bien connu Frantz et est aussitôt convié à partager ses souvenirs avec les parents du soldat allemand, heureux de raviver la mémoire de leur fils. Mais Adrien leur dit-il la vérité ?

Filmé (pour la plupart) en noir et blanc, ce mélo historique mêle classicisme esthétique et puissance romanesque. Il nous plonge dans l’ambiance tendue de l’entre-deux-guerres, entre humiliation allemande et traumatisme français. Et nous raconte comment la culpabilité, le mensonge et le déni peuvent être surmontés pour continuer à vivre.

Un chef-d’oeuvre.

– Thierry Dague, Le Parisien
 

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