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Water Drops on Burning Rocks

With his third feature, after Sitcom (1998) and Criminal Lovers (1999), Francois Ozon enters fascinating territory.

This adaptation of a play written by German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder when he was just nineteen, represents a haunting return to the themes and concerns of one of the most influential film and theatre directors of the ’70s. Water Drops on Burning Rocks is directed much like a middle-period Fassbinder film, with the action confined to the apartment of the central character and the camera unblinkingly recording the action head-on. The deadpan humour, also typical of Fassbinder, has been faithfully reproduced here, the only minor incongruity being the casting of French actors as these quintessential German characters.
Ozon has kept to a theatrical structure, dividing the film into four acts, the first of which begins with the arrival of Leopold (Bernard Giraudeau), a 50-ish insurance salesman, and his pickup, 20-year old Franz (Malick Zidi), at Leopold’s apartment. Franz, who is naive but not that naive, was on his way to meet his fiancee, Anna (Ludivine Sagnier), when he allowed himself to be picked up. Act two takes up the story six months later, with Franz now completely at home in Leopold’s apartment. But the sensitive young man is increasingly at odds with the mercurial, demanding lover. In act three, the abandoned Anna shows up, together with Leopold’s transsexual ex-lover, and the stage is set for some complex power-shifting and sexual game-playing – all of which is amusing for a while but which concludes tragically.

France, 2000.
English subtitles.
Colour.
Dolby digital stereo.
85 min.

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