restricted access Mourning Sickness: Sous le sable, Swimming Pool, and Le temps qui reste
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78 | François Ozon narrative reality. Evidently, its artifice and near-perfect symmetry point back to the harmonious visual composition of the musical interludes. But perhaps more interestingly, the fixed image denotes the characters’ apparent disconnection from the reality of the father’s suicide, a lack of interest or denial reinforced by the fact that no one rushes to Marcel’s side to verify Catherine’s affirmation that he has indeed perished. In contrast to the trauma initially caused by the father’s emotional absence in Sitcom, the patriarch’s inadequacy is already established in the first minutes of 8 femmes, making this last shot consistent with the characters’ longing for a fatherless fate. As I have already suggested, the complexity of Ozon’s cinema prevents the articulation of a formula (beyond the simple one proposed by Lalanne) that would accurately describe the ways in which male characters are portrayed in his films and, more particularly, the relationship between patriarchy and queer identity. While the presence of the father is shown to be incompatible with the queering and overall evolution of the family in both Sitcom and 8 femmes, the paternal figure in Les amants criminels is, in contrast and despite his explicit monstrosity , the one facilitating both the queering and maturation of the film’s male teenager. Symptomatically, some critics have proposed markedly divergent readings of the ogre, one commentator seeing Manojlovic’s character as “the bad father, a hypocritical voice of morality . . . [and even] something outside the parameters of humanity” (Hain 285) while another opined that the woodsman is a “rare exception” in Ozon’s cinema in that he is the only character in the film that is “vaguely moral or sensitive” (Gilbey, “Criminal Lovers” 39). Ozon’s portrayal of women is no less complex, as the next section will demonstrate. In the following three films discussed, Ozon scuttles the unapologetic, “excessive” world of artifice and camp and draws a realistic, intimate, and compassionate portrayal of two women and a gay man in pain. Mourning Sickness: Sous le sable, Swimming Pool, and Le temps qui reste Ever since his early filmmaking projects, and long before the vanishing fathers described above, François Ozon’s films have dealt with loss. Most of them revolve, in different ways, around the disappearance of i-x_1-198_Schil.indd 78 11/16/10 2:07:04 PM The Fabric of Desire | 79 someone or something and around the consequences, whether welcomed or grievous, of such bereavement. In the case of Photo de famille and Victor, the elimination of the mother and father ignites a process of liberation, transforming the protagonist in the first short film into a macabre, yet self-satisfied, photographer and enabling the character in the latter to become a parricidal but nonetheless freed sexual being. The absence and subsequent loss of Paul’s father in La petite mort and the earlier death of Tatiana’s infant in Regarde la mer convert the protagonists into individuals who engage with others in a manner that may be considered socially inappropriate, if not ill-willed. Oftentimes, these films are concerned not so much with loss itself but with how the mourner-protagonists cope with that deficit and how their grieving affects others, be they relatives or strangers. Such is precisely the case in Sous le sable (2000), Swimming Pool (2003), and Le temps qui reste (2005), Ozon’s fourth, sixth, and eighth feature films. In addition to sharing a sense of loss, these films stand out in their sobriety and, to a certain extent, their minimalism, in contrast to the colorful, plot-twisted, studio-shot, ensemble-cast narratives that characterize Ozon’s first two feature films and 8 femmes. Introspective in nature and slow in pace, these three works have much in common. Filmed mostly on location, they focus on lonesome characters who, because of various types of mourning sickness, have taken refuge in narcissistic isolation. Their mourning sickness also beacons an absence of morning sickness. The two heroines of Sous le sable and Swimming Pool are childless, and there are reasons to believe that part of their suffering stems from that lack. The hero of Le temps qui reste does father a child, but for him the joys of parenthood are off-limits. In order to allow the tormented, self-absorbed protagonists to gaze at their own reflections and contemplate their fates, mirrors, rivers, pools, and oceans abound in the three stories, which all begin and end beside a body of water...


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