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THE WITNESSES

Director: ANDRE TECHINE

FRANCE • 2007 SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 115 MIN


WITH ITS RESTLESS CAMERA AND SUN-DRENCHED COLOURS, FRENCH DIRECTOR ANDRE TECHINE’S LATEST ADDITION TO AN ALREADY IMPRESSIVE FILMOGRAPHY (WILD REEDS, ALICE ET MARTIN) BRILLIANTLY CONFOUNDS OUR EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT AN AIDS-ERA CHRONICLE SHOULD LOOK LIKE.
Simmering with righteous anger at the lack of governmental support in the earliest days of the virus, this is essentially a life-affirming story about those who lived to tell the tale, their experiences both bitter and enriching, captured with nonjudgmental understanding. Children’s writer Sarah (Emmanuelle Beart) and her vice-cop husband Mehdi (Sami Bouajila) find their fortunes unexpectedly entwined with her best friend and doctor, Adrien (Michel Blanc) and his latest— alas platonic!—youthful companion Manu (Johan Liberau). Sarah may have an ‘open’ marriage, but she’s unaware her man is impulsively drawn to the sexual allure of hunky Manu. Adrien, hurt by the betrayal, must also put aside his personal feelings when the medic realises the strange colourations appearing on the young man’s body match the symptoms in an as yet unnamed affliction beginning to take a fatal toll on New York’s gay community . . .
With the whole plot revolving around a near-drowning sequence which becomes a moment of erotic epiphany, this is a marvellously fluid piece of film-making, gliding through time as it shows how a generation trying to reconcile their own freedoms and responsibilities confronted a crisis which made desire itself a matter of life and death. The authentically tangled emotions of Techine’s very human account offer an absorbing and honest hindsight, physically frank and flawlessly performed.—Trevor Johnston.

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