Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Passages: A Very Sui Generis Love Affair in Paris

By José Alberto Hermosillo


In times of diversity and inclusion, “Passages” is a successful attempt for Queer Cinema to crossover into the mainstream media. 

“Passages” is a refreshing and sophisticated new French/German Queer drama attempting to explore the laws of attraction, arousal, behavior, and human sexuality without bounds in this modern love story triangle.

The story naturally centers on a same-sex couple struggling over an infidelity one of them had with a woman. The problem is that the suitor likes exploring his bisexuality further with the opposite sex and wants to keep it that way, but his heart is attached to his husband.


Triggered by his husband’s rejection, self-centered German director Tomas Freiburg (Franz Rogowski) falls into an extramarital steamy relationship with Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos), an elementary school teacher, who falls for him carelessly. 


In a short period, his intellectual husband, Martin (Ben Whishaw), witnesses how Tomas is going down into a self-destruction mode and how his erratic conduct affects other people’s lives, including their fifteen-year marriage.

 

Franz Rogowski as Tomas is extraordinary. He plays the perfect antihero of the story as an openly gay film director with enormous emotional baggage.


Rogowski’s charming and even cynical smile and profound gaze transmit the proper emotions to captivate his audience, elements that make the actor continue growing, as good as in his previous performances in “Transit,” “Undide,” “Great Freedom,” and the upcoming “Disco Boy.” With enormous confidence, he conquers the screen as one of the greatest European actors of our time.


His counterpart, British actor Ben Whishaw, is terrific as the dedicated and betrayed husband. His character, Martin, is a low-key graphic artist and owner of a high-end print shop. In the film, his break-up does not prevent him from fooling around with other guys in their social circle. 


Whishaw is a chameleonic actor who has performed excellently for almost three decades. His most iconic roles were in the 2006 “Perfume: The Story of a Murder” next to Dustin Hoffman and the British time-period film “Bright Star.” More recently, he worked in “Paddington,” “Skyfall,” “No Time to Die,” and the Award-winning feminist piece “Women Talking” as the raconteur of the women’s struggle.

 

The questionable concubine Agathe is exquisite, confident, and feminine with traditional French parents. She is a practical woman who does not give importance to her new partner’s lifestyle. Agathe is played by the always sumptuous Adele Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color,” “Les anarchistes,” and “The White Crow”).


Film director Ira Sachs’s (“Frankie,” “Love is Strange”) fierce and meticulous method of directing actors shows her capability to get the most out of them professionally. In her work, she introduced a new kind of “Teorema,” referring to the type of sexuality presented in the 1968 Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Italian Cult Classic “Theorem.” “Passages” has intricate relationships and playfulness similar to Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Dreamers.” The modernity of Nadav Lapid’s storytelling in “Synonyms” elevates Sachs’s work to a new and profound level of understanding human behavior.


The luxurious cinematography enhances the sharp colors, and close imagery focuses on the subjects, which is the responsibility of talented Josée Deshaies (“Lamb,” “Saint Laurent,” “Curling”). It has an effervescent atmosphere and creates an uneasy feeling of wonder and anxiety in the spectator.


A big shout-out to the costume department for showing French fashion on a large scale. Every character is dressed according to their personality, leaving no room to wonder who is who in the story.

 

The set design department did a fabulous job choosing those unknown locations in Paris. The interior design, furniture, and accessories colors are superb. On the couple’s living room wall hangs the iconic poster of the 2019 Rachel Mason Emmy nominee LGBTQ documentary “The Circus of Books,” which is festive and refers to Tomas’ passion for fine prints and the couple’s happiness when they were together.


“Passages” is a freshly made, entirely original film full of surprises, making it impossible to know where every scene will take you next.

Besides how strident and sexually explicit y the film can be, there is a time for reflection on the direction our society is taking. In times of solitude, moving on from a long-term relationship is complicated, mostly when the people they trust and love are not supportive. Therefore, it is worth our time to watch one of the best films of the year that contains good production value, perfect direction, and terrific actors transmitting their emissions to the public. 



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