Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The New Girlfriend: A New Trend in Transgender Cinema

By Jose Alberto Hermosillo

“The New Girlfriend” is a fabulous, elegant, quirky, and twisted story about losing someone and overcoming grief while morphing into someone else. This French movie is magnifique! 

François Ozon (“Swimming Pool,” “Ricky,” “Angel,” “Young & Beautiful”) masterfully addresses the transgender affair in his latest work, “Une nouvelle amie/The New Girlfriend,” finding a man in need to become a woman, not like a foolish obsession, but as a conscious decision that will affect everyone surrounding him, including his baby girl. 

As Pedro Almodóvar did in “All About My Mother” and Xavier Dolan in “Laurens Anyways,” Ozon’s “Girlfriend” also has a male character deciding to be a woman, not a transvestite but a total transgender.

The emotional journey starts with a montage of an elegant funeral to a flashback where two little girls, Claire and Laura, make a blood covenant, swearing: “A le vie, a le amour….” In a flash-forward where the girls have grown up,  they go to the disco, have their first boyfriend, kiss, and break up.

The intensity of the music score uplifts the emotions without using unnecessary words to understand what the actors are feeling through their actions.

One of them marries, gets pregnant, and dies, leaving a baby girl needing a mother. 

The "other girlfriend," Claire, naturally played by Anaïs Demounstier (“Bird People,” “Thérèse”), remembers the promise she made to her late girlfriend to look after her baby. In that sense, she gets closer to David to discover an uncomfortable truth for everyone but conforming for the baby.  

Romain Duris at COLCOA 2014. Photo by Jose Alberto Hermosillo

David, the widower, fantastically played by Romain Duris (“Chinese Puzzle,” “Russian Dolls,” “The Spanish Apartment”), notices that the only thing that makes the little girl stop crying is the smell of her late mother’s perfume still infused in her clothes.

He disguises himself as the woman who passed and cares for the baby.  The baby is content in the arms of his new “mother.”

The story gets complicated when Claire discovers David dressed in her late girlfriend’s garments. She runs away but returns, remembering her promise and honors her word to take care of the baby.

Things get convoluted when David becomes Virginia (“The New Girlfriend”) and wants to go out shopping. Romain Duris is terrific as David and Virginia.

"The New Girlfriend" is a well-crafted French queer drama is reflecting the importance of having high-quality costume design and makeup artists to get the proper characterization. Audiences value authenticity and honesty in a film with a good story and production value.

Other memorable performances of terrific actors taking the risk by doing a transgender role outside of Hollywood are:

Miguel Bosé in “High Heels,” Spain.

Roberto Cobo in “The Place without Limits/El lugar sin límites,” Mexico.

Gael García Bernal in “Bad Education,” Spain.

Finally, the highly expected British drama "The Danish Girl” with the Oscar winner best actor Eddy Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”), who is a strong contender to win his second consecutive Oscar, now playing a man transforming into a woman.

The dichotomy of the story plays an important role when David, as Virginia, is not sexually attracted to men, and he/She still likes women.

Virginia says, “Men are born in cabbages, women are born with flowers, and I was born in a cauliflower.”

Ultimately, we all learn a valuable lesson: “It’s a hard job to be a woman.”

François Ozon’s “New Girlfriend” was screened to a packed house at the Los Angeles Closing Night Gala of the renowned Outfest 2015.

The film lovers who attended the event laughed, cherished, and applauded this male-to-female transgender feel-good movie.

Closing Night Outfest 2015, Photo by Jose Alberto Hermosillo. Copyrights Festival in LA

Copyright © 2015 Festival in LA

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