Directed by: Christophe Honoré | 132 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Vincent Lacoste, Pierre Deladonchamps, Denis Podalydès, Adèle Wismes, Thomas Gonzalez, Clément Métayer, Quintin Thébault, Tristan Farge, Sophie Letourneur, Marlene Saldana, Luca Malinowski, Rio Vega
In the late eighties and early nineties, AIDS took hold, especially in the big cities with their vibrant gay communities, like a veritable epidemic. French writer and filmmaker Christophe Honoré had just left rural Brittany at the time to try his luck in Paris. What he found there made a deep impression on him. He incorporated these experiences into his most personal film to date, “Plaire, aimer et courir vite” (2018). “I wanted to explore my memories of the nineties, my twenties. AIDS was part of my life, so many people around me died. At the time, AIDS and the fear of dying hung like a threatening cloud over love and sexual relationships. ” Unlike Robin Campillo’s 2017 film, “120 BPM,” for example, AIDS does not play the main role in “Plaire, aimer et courir vite”, but rather a supporting role. Sickness and death lurk, but they play second fiddle to the love and tenderness that the main characters in this film feel for each other.
“Plaire, aimer et courir vite” is set in 1993. Parisian Jacques Tondelli (Pierre Deladonchamps) is a playwright in his 40s, who is struggling with a kind of writer’s block and therefore only goes to a performance of one of his Rennes plays. As befits a typical Parisian, the hotel in the Breton city is too little for him and he complains. He doesn’t really feel like going to watch the performance of his work and decides to go to the cinema. There his eye immediately falls on Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), a much younger Breton student who is more than happy to respond to Jacques’ advances. Arthur (who personifies writer / director Honoré) is still struggling with his love life; he has a girlfriend (Adèle Wismes), but slips into the street late at night to cruise. He has never had a real relationship with a man. Jacques allows himself to be seduced, but when Arthur asks if he can go with him to his hotel, he stops the boat. Now that he knows that he is HIV positive and will probably die in the near future, Jacques cannot afford a new love affair. The men part their ways, but Arthur is a perseverer; he continues to visit Jacques. He just likes to be with him.
Honoré drew on personal experiences for this film, which is especially noticeable in a handful of particularly tender and warm moments. The flirt scene in the cinema splashes off the screen; not only do Deladonchamps and Lacoste have an irresistible chemistry with each other, Honoré films it in such a way that you are part of their “secret”. The intimate bathing scene, in which Jacques lovingly washes and holds his deathly ill ex-lover Marco (Thomas Gonzalez), is breathtakingly beautiful. Jacques and Arthur are characters you will love, despite their unpleasantness. Jacques may seem like a typical chain-smoking person (even at a doctor’s consultation, he has a burning cigarette in his hand, which was still possible at the time), but a snobbish intellectual, once he’s closed in on you he will never let you down. He always retains his dignity, even when he gets sicker. Honoré does not answer all questions – what about, for example, his seven-year-old son, who he had with a good friend? – but that doesn’t stop the viewer from embracing him like a friend. While Jacques makes an increasingly exhausted impression due to his illness, Arthur sparkles more and more with love, zest for life and self-confidence.
The love between two men, one of whom knows he is dying; it sounds heavy. The clever thing is that “Plaire, aimer et courir vite” is not at all. Honoré creates a beautiful balance and gives plenty of space to humor and lightness. “Master” Jacques explaining to Arthur what types of “blondes” there are and the apprentice who takes neat notes. The dance across the room with Jacques’ somewhat grumpy, also homosexual neighbor Mathieu (Denis Podalydès). That Mathieu is in any case the one who manages to provide a comical note and at several moments pulls the sting out of the underlying tragedy. Besides a strong narrative aspect, “Plaire, aimer et courir vite” is also beautifully filmed; especially the scenes in the dark (Arthur’s secret cruising, flirting in the cinema) stand out. Honoré also filmed in Amsterdam. With the extremely personal and loving “Plaire, aimer et courir vite” he lets his audience watch over his own shoulder; this is how it was to immerse yourself in the Parisian gay community as a young Breton in the nineties: exciting and even dangerous, to warm, loving and tender.