Considering that French(-speakers) are notorious for lucidity and for being analytical and having theories about everything, the French films that have made it to the US in recent years seem oddly "un-French" in being far from lucid and not analytical. "Show rather than tell" is an American (Anglophone?) maxim, that French film-makers seem to have taken to heart.
Films such as "Ma Mère," "Le Clan" (AKA "Three Dancing Slaves"), the movies of François Ozon (such as "Under the Sand"), are unflinching about nudity and unconventional sex(uality), but sometimes leave viewers guessing about what happened, and usually perplexed by the motivation of characters. (I don't think it's just me!)
In "Garçon Stupide" ("garçon" means boy, and "stupide" is a rather obvious cognate), I'd have liked to know what schooling the title character, Loïc (Pierre Chatagny), had. He realizes that he is supposed to have heard of Hitler, and looks him up in his friend's Larousse (the page oddly has a picture of Stalin on the same page!?) How did Loïc and Marie (Natacha Koutchoumov) meet and become (platonically) intimate? What does she see in him? Why does she put him up on her couch? Is female masochism a sufficient explanation? Loïc gives off a sexually adventuresome magnetism, which runs in channels away from Marie (to men he connects with on the Internet). He contributes nothing to the household finances and is far from being a scintillating conversationalist.
Loïc is very sexually active, and totally unromantic. He is not only a stranger to love, but to any feeling — unless being boredom counts as a "feeling." He pursues sex and gets a lot of it, but does not seem to get much (if any) pleasure from it. He gets down to it and moves on immediately afterward, so is puzzled and discomfited when an older man (the writer and director Lionel Baier) asks him question and does not want to get Loïc naked and into sexual action.
These scenes (mostly in the man's car and underlit) show Loïc being surly and confused. They are shot from the man's perspective, observing Loïc as he interrogates him (convenient with the director playing the man! and setting up Loïc speaking directly to the camera).
Something happens (I don't want to commit plot spoiling). It is not clear exactly what happened (and certainly not why!), and whether this event alters Loïc.
Loïc begin stalking the star of the local (Bulle) soccer team, Rui (Rui Pedro Alves) an Afro-Brazilian (from Lisbon). It is not clear to me how Loïc manages to be invited back by the man. tells Loïc that if he were a star, he wouldn't be playing for a Swiss team... and that if Loïc were a real photographer, he would have a camera rather than taking pictures with his cellphone (though Baier later made a whole movie shot on his cellphone!). This seems to stimulate Loïc buying a camera, and while shooting photos of an anti-globalization demonstration, Loïc vows to stop being stupid (among other things).
The movie ends with a wordless and very cinematic set-piece on a carnival ride. I think the viewer is supposed to conclude that Loïc is ignorant but not stupid and is going to become a new man, though I find this very difficult to believe.
There are striking scenes, heavy Rachmaninoff on the soundtrack, and Pierre Chatagny is highly photogenic. He has a long neck and a long angular face. Sometimes (under bright lights) he struck me as repellent, but most of the time (softer focus or at least less merciless lighting) he looked handsome and not vapid. A DVD extra, "Garçon Stupide in Montréal," (in addition to showing sights of that city) provided information I found interesting. Chatagny really works in a chocolate factory in Bulle, just as his character does, and Lausanne is the city for him, as for Loïc (whether he goes there for sex is not addressed). He wanted to be on the crew for the movie and had never thought about acting, but Baier persuaded him, and he trusted Baier even to overcoming qualms about the close-up shots of him peeling back his foreskin and washing after one of the sex scenes.
Although the lack of information about motivation and the oblique narrative tactics of the film annoyed me (along with an overuse of split screen shots), I was not bored watching it. The male nudity and somewhat graphic sex scenes—which are mostly early on—undoubtedly would bother some viewers, including many who would be frustrated by the withholding of some much crucial information about the characters' backgrounds and motivations.
Natacha Koutchoumov' Maria and come across as warm, intelligent, and sympathetic (and are also more conventionally good-looking).
Although French in language, the movie is Swiss. The protagonist is gay, which is why this review is a contribution to this year's June g/l writeoff, hosted by jps246. For other contributions see the writeoff home page at http://www.epinions.com/content_4763263108.
©2006, Stephen O. Murray