Été 85 [Summer of 85] (2020)

Été 85
Director: François Ozon
Writer: François Ozon
Based on: Aidan Chambers‘ novel Dance on My Grave
Cast: Félix Lefebvre, Benjamin Voisin, Philippine Velge, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Melvil Poupaud, Isabelle Nanty
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 24.10.2020

Content Note: bimisia

It’s summer and the sea stretches out before Alexis (Félix Lefebvre). He borrows a small boat from a friend to sail out, but he capsizes. Fortunately along comes David (Benjamin Voisin) and fishes him out of the water. Could there be a more romantic encounter? Alexis certainly doesn’t think so. Despite his more reserved nature, he is taken in by David’s spontaneity and charm and the two start spending a lot of time together. But David isn’t quite as easy-going as it may seem at first and every summer has to end.

Été 85 has strong moments and those moments manage to create some emotional resonance, but it does not achieve the involvement that would have been necessary to really make the story work.

The film poster showing David (Benjamin Voisin) and Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) on a motorcycle together.

The film has some obvious problems. One is that it employs the bimisic trope of the bisexual who just can’t keep it in his pants, who can’t be happy with just one person, who gets bored. Let me tell you, from the bottom of my bisexual little heart, to kindly fuck off with this kind of characterization. Additionally, I just did not understand why David’s mother (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) would blame Alexis for everything. It did not make sense to me in the slightest and it wasn’t even necessary for the story. It seemed a bit of a lazy narrative choice to me.

I’m a little bit more ambivalent about Kate’s (Philippine Velge) role in everything. She is such a good soul, always there for everybody, ready to put her own emotions aside to comfort Alexis. As this is usually the role women are forced into, I was rather annoyed by that, too, but on the other hand, it’s usually the gay guys in movies who play that role for the women around them, so the film does get some points for turning this around.

David (Benjamin Voisin), Kate (Philippine Velge) and Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) on the beach together.

These issues are not small, but there are also many strengths to counteract them: Ozon has an excellent handle on catching gazes and centering sexual desires and attraction that way. And as I said, there were some really good emotional moments. The best scene for me, hands down, was the scene at the club where everybody is dancing to club music when suddenly David puts headphones on Alexis, with “I Am Sailing”. Alexis is jolted into a parallel universe with that, literally dancing to his own music. It shifts the entire atmosphere and manages to foreshadow the rest of the film.

But when it’s so easy to pick up one scene of a film as the best scene, it is usually a sign that the film is in trouble overall. And so it is a pity, but it doesn’t come as a complete surprise that I just wasn’t with the film or with Alexis in the end. In fact, I became rather bored. Given the dramatic nature of the ending, that is pretty much a death sentence for the film, despite the fact that I enjoyed a lot of it.

David (Benjamin Voisin) putting headphones on Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) in a club.

Summarizing: It’s not a complete loss, but it does fall flat.

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