The Witnesses (Les témoins)
Directed by André Téchiné
France 2007 112mins (35mm)
In the idyllic summer of 1984, charismatic young Manu (Johan Libéreau) joins his doctor friend Adrien (Michel Blanc) and a married couple on a blissful Riviera holiday. The couple – children’s writer Sarah (Emmanuelle Béart) and police detective Mehdi (Sami Bouajila) – are going through a crisis after the birth of their first child and Mehdi is irresistibly drawn towards Manu. Soon after, Manu comes down with a mysterious new disease.
André Téchiné’s (The Wild Reeds, I Don’t Kiss) fast-moving, engrossing and entertaining drama revolves around the AIDS crisis of the mid 1980s, but its real theme is love and acceptance. A rich screenplay and bright comedy colours celebrate the spirit of the 80s as a time of great social and sexual freedom, embodied by young Johan Libéreau as the blithe, carefree Manu, whose irrepressible joie de vivre refuses to accept the limitations of monogamy.
“Téchiné tells the story with comic intensity for the first hour, and then aching drama. The possibility of having a disease of this sort, especially when you are married, allegedly straight and even an anti-gay enforcer for the cops, creates secrecy and shame, and can lead to much worse than simply facing the truth. And it is that pain of the double life that concerns Téchiné in his later scenes.
“Libéreau does a completely convincing transformation from an effortless charmer to a dying man; he wasn't meant to die young like this, he despairingly tells Adrien; in fights at school, he didn't even bruise. Béart is mysterious as a remote, cold woman who likes physical sex but not much else apart from her writing. The cop is deeper and more sensitive than the situation might suggest; when he does the laundry for Manu, it is uncommonly touching, especially when the film notices how staring at an automatic washer can become a form of meditation.” Roger Ebert – Chicago Sun-Times
“I never know how each film will end”, Téchiné explains. “When I'm filming, I shoot each scene as if it were a short film. It's only when I edit that I worry about the narrative. My objective is to tell a story, but that's the final thing I do.”
Eye for Detail
In one of the first sequences you can see, slightly blurred in the background, the logo of the LCL bank (yellow letters on a blue background). The LCL name/logo was only introduced around 2005 and did not exist in 1984.
Screenings are at 5.30pm and 8pm at Downtown Cinemas
Members only. Palmerston North Film Society Membership is available at the door before each screening and lasts for one full year.
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