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Berlin Review: François Ozon’s Festival Opener ‘Peter Von Kant’

It’s a successfully-organized conceit, making the directing colossus of 1970s German cinema into the star of his devour present. Peter Von Kant, the hole movie of the Berlin Movie Competition, is “freely adapted” by French director François Ozon from The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s extremely stylized 1972 account of three girls people locked in a toxic triangle of admire, jealousy, domination and submission. The storyline and hundreds of the dialogue, is the the same; where Ozon shakes it up is by making the trio all males. 

Ozon has tangled with Fassbinder forward of. His 2000 movie, Water Drops On Burning Rocks, which also dealt with power struggles within sexual relationships, became once adapted from a Fassbinder play. Taking on The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant, a known landmark of European cinema, is a bolder trail, made at a clear second in Ozon’s profession. Right here’s maestro on maestro — and there’s not any such thing as a ask that Ozon makes it his devour.  

Most an excellent deal, clothier Petra becomes movie director Peter, played by Denis Ménochet. The save Margit Carstensen became once languidly soignée as Petra, Ménochet’s Peter is paunchy, sweaty, quickly and constantly snuffling a pharmacopeia of treatment washed down with gin in between manic bouts of work. There is not this kind of thing as a mistaking it: Fassbinder has returned as his devour heroine. For Ozon, that notion must had been successfully-nigh irresistible. 

For so prolonged a vibrant supporting actor, Ménochet strikes heart stage here with accurately seedy aplomb. The account itself is moved from Bremen to Cologne. Peter lives in a magnificently converted village residence with a monetary institution of windows, esteem a hothouse for overheated feelings. Most of our time is spent in the sunless indoors, but ceaselessly we’re outside, catching a explore of a lonely decide at the window.  

Peter is attended by factotum Karl (Stefan Crepon), who hovers constantly lest he be required to safe champagne, kind a letter or gradual dance along with his master; by no manner speaking but looking ahead to the slightest ticket of a beckon or frown. Crepon is marvelously abject, skinny and mincing with the helpless, good-eyed spy of a bush baby.

Peter has a daughter, Gabrielle, packed away to boarding college and a largely absent but dependent mother, Rosemarie. Rosemarie is played by Hannah Schygulla, who played Petra’s object of decide on in Fassbinder’s customary. Now 78, she wears her developed years esteem furs. 

Into this downhearted household comes Khalil Ben Gharbia as Amir Ben-Salem, the carelessly pleasing young man who turns Peter into putty. Amir is shallow, sluggish and adorable. He arrives with the simpering Sidonie (Isabelle Adjani), one among Peter’s longstanding actress cronies; good one overview, as the music goes, and Peter hears a bell ring.

Any person can overview that Amir sees Peter as a stepping stone. Peter, bloated, blubbering and bedraggled as he’s, have to know that. Amir might perhaps additionally simply not even be homosexual, despite the lurid tales of his unimaginative night time adventures he makes exercise of to torture his benefactor. And Peter is duly tortured. Whereas total walls of his palatial pad are given over to murals of his beloved, others are plastered with Renaissance art work of Saint Sebastian, writhing underneath a hail of arrows. 

Constantly a brisk storyteller, Ozon delivers a movie that is 30 minutes shorter than Fassbinder’s. He keeps it in the 70s, however the ornate decadence and operatic sweep of the distinctive is diminished to something altogether smaller: a melodrama somewhat than an account tragedy. And whereas the girls people in the distinctive had been just divas, Ménochet’s Peter and the louche Amir are more esteem real people. Handiest Adjani, fluting her unlikely dialogue as if to the mannered-born, retains the over-elaborated artificiality of the distinctive.

Most importantly, after all, Ozon has given the account a sex change. Whether or not this in actuality succeeds is inaugurate to ask. Fassbinder’s girls people in wigs, festooned with jewels, draped and corseted in satin generated a particular heat that drew on a total history of fictional spaces dominated by girls people. Brothels, convents, the conclaves of girls people in Hollywood melodramas and, in somewhat a number of Ozon’s devour movies, similar to 8 Ladies people: girls people as males imagined them, perhaps, but conjuring an setting that is potent and intensely particular. 

Care for Fassbinder, Ozon is a prolific filmmaker who spins a just memoir. Peter Von Kant is an efficient divertissement about sex, loneliness and sadism. But Ozon is aware of as well to any director alive — as well to the leisurely Fassbinder, reach to that — that there isn’t the the same dynamic between males on disguise. Peter Von Kant is a certified homage, but The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant became once constantly a girls people’s describe.   

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