Thursday, June 17, 2021

Naughty Summer

Benjamin Voisin (left) and Félix Lefebvre (right) in François Ozon’s Summer of 85. Courtesy of Music Box Films. After delving into serious subjects recently with Frantz (WWII) and By the Grace of God (Catholic priests sexual abuse), François Ozon (Swimming Pool, Criminal Lovers, Sitcom) goes back to his roots and concocts a naughty and delicious Hitchcockian summer fling movie based on a 80s British YA novel Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers. 

With a sunny resort town on the French Riviera as a backdrop, Summer of 85 blasts off with the Cure's In Between Days and introduces our young protagonist, Alex (Félix Lefebvre), an angel faced 16 year old high school student on the verge of self discovery. Alex is accused of some grievous crime that might have caused the death of his friend David Gorman (Benjamin Volsin). 

As usual, in a true Ozonian fashion, the director throws in a red herring, leading us to believe that it's a murder mystery. The film slowly reveals what really happened that fateful summer in flashbacks as Alex narrates his side of the story within the story. 

In the flashback, Alex doesn't really know what to do with his life yet. He has a great potential as a writer, confirmed by his teacher. But he will need to decide soon, to either stay in school or get a job to start supporting his working class parents. His life is an open book and it a glorious summer. And everything changes when he meets charismatic David. Alex takes out his friend's sailboat to the ocean and soon runs into trouble when an unexpected thunderstorm capsizes the boat. David, who has a boat rental and souvenir shop on the shore shows up to rescue him. David swiftly instructs him what to do, and invites him into his house after they dock. And it turns out that David is not the only overly friendly person to complete strangers in the Gorman household. Madam Gorman (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) has no problem stripping Alex's wet clothes and ordering him to take a bath in her house, all the while calling him "my little bunny." 

A little bit older than Alex, David takes charge of their relationship and aggressively throws himself into young Alex's life. Soon they become inseparable. They go to movies, take rides in David's motorbike and hang out on the beach. Soon after the urging of Madam Gorman, Alex takes a part time job at David's shop, David presents Alex with a cool red & white bike helmet. Now they can ride together all the time! Alex feels their friendship is developing way too fast but can't deny his attraction to David. He also notices that David seems extremely friendly to any attractive young people in general and can't help feeling the fangs of jealousy. 

They become 'more than friends'. Their romance scenes are tender and not overtly graphic. "What happens behind closed doors, stays behind closed doors." Alex narrates. 

The rest of the film involves a supposed grave desecration and cross-dressing and Rod Stewart's rendition of Sailing. And they are all glorious. 

Playing with the idea of innocence/deviance and eroticism has been an Ozon specialty. Summer of 85 nostalgically invokes the innocent times before the AIDS crisis and harkening back to his more salacious, hormone overloaded earlier works that he is best known for. The film is an erotically charged period piece, filled with pastel colors and 80s pop songs. It’s a deliciously seductive summer fun movie. 

Summer of 85 will be showing in 35mm in select theaters including the Angelika Film Center and the Village East in New York. It starts theatrical run on 6/18. Please visit Music Box Films for theater rollouts and dates.

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