Starring: Eric Cantona, Kate Moran, Neils Schneider
Genre: Drama/ Romance
A married couple (Moran & Schneider) and their transvestite maid (Nicolas Maury) live as immortals, but in order to keep their immortality they must constantly fulfil their darkest sexual desires and avoid the melancholy and loneliness that love can bring. They invite The Slut (Julie Brémond), The Stud (Eric Cantona), The Teen (Alain Fabien Delon) and The Star (Fabienne Babe) to join them for an orgy. These creatures of the night share intimate secrets and revelations to one another and connect in ways they never expected as they all try to discover some meaning in their existence and their desires.
Though sounding like the synopsis for a rather cheap porn film, Yann Gonzalez’s feature length debut has far more to it than just Eric Cantona getting his large prosthetic member out (if it actually is in fact not prosthetic than I apologise Eric, and very impressive!). The film itself does start off feeling that way however, as all the characters meet for this apparent orgy and the dialogue exchanges range from pretentious philosophising to surreally sexual. Though at first suggesting a film that may simply be all (bizarre) style and no substance, as the characters exchange stories and secrets, the bizarrely erotic visuals remain, but You and the Night emerges as a film that is actually profoundly moving and emotionally involving.
On the evidence of You and the Night Yann Gonzalez seems to have a talent for producing rich visuals and this film certainly contains a deep influence of the surrealism and themes of both sexual repression and enlightenment of the films of Luis Buñuel. If he has indeed chosen Buñuel as an influence, then Gonzalez has chosen very well and You and the Night is most certainly a deeply enticing and rich audio-visual experience, not to mention also featuring the very dry humour which was found in Buñuel’s films.
The set design is intentionally surreal and the visuals erotic and sensual, but the more sensual and sexually explicit scenes are actually very few and far between, this intentional scarcity of such scenes is a wise choice by Gonzalez and shows very much a director in control of his film. Gonzalez quite literally makes use of the fact film is an audio-visual medium by the characters having a ‘sensory jukebox’ which plays music to match their mood if they lay their hand on it. This not only fits with the style of the film, but is very clever way of utilising the way a film’s music can reflect the inner feelings of the characters as well as enhance the audience’s emotional engagement.
Despite the surrealist and sexually charged visual style and the borderline pretentious philosophical dialogue, as the characters share increasingly intimate thoughts and secrets there emerges an increasing feeling of deep underlying melancholy in what they say that is surprisingly universal. The need to feel love, experience intimacy and have companionship are without doubt deeply universal themes and are explored with an underlying sense of melancholy within the narrative, and produce a viewing experience that is surprisingly moving, involving and quite haunting. These universal and ultimately quite moving ideas are in the end enhanced by the film’s visuals which though perhaps erotic, only enhance the feeling of relatable melancholy contained within the story.
If you are a film director that needs a composer to produce a score to enhance the emotional engagement of your film, then having a brother who can compose a score to do just that always helps, and Yann’s brother Anthony (perhaps better known as M83) has put together a quite wonderful score that only enhances the emotional journey of the narrative. After his exceptional score to Oblivion M83 has once again proved that his music and cinema are a perfect match, and I hope he composes more film scores.
Despite its surrealist tone and visual eroticism, You and the Night explores universal themes of intimacy and companionship far more effectively and movingly than most cynical mainstream romantic dramas and Yann Gonzalez has to be applauded for that.
A surreal erotic odyssey containing plenty of visual style, but yet having at its heart a deep sense of melancholy through its examination of deeply universal themes; You and the Night combines style and substance very well to produce perhaps one of the year’s most surprisingly emotionally moving and haunting films.