Director: Yann Gonzalez | 100 minutes | drama | Actors: Kate Moran, Niels Schneider, Nicolas Maury, Eric Cantona, Fabienne Babe, Alain-Fabien Delon, Julie Brémond, Béatrice Dalle, Jean-Christophe Bouvet, Pierre-Vincent Chapus, Dominique Bettenfeld, Frédéric Bayer Azem, Louis-Orfeo Marin, Annie Dupuy
“You and the Night” (2013) is a metaphysical reflection on themes such as sex, love and death, cast in an absurdist narrative with a good dose of eighties (and further back) retro kitsch. The set-up of the story is simple: a couple organizes, together with their domestic help, a transvestite in the uniform of a maid, an orgy and invites various stereotypical characters.
Besides “the teenager”, “the slut” and “the star”, former football player Eric Cantona in particular stands out most as “the stallion”. Each character has its own story, which is sometimes told in a frame story. Cantona’s story is that he would have been a poet if his huge genitals hadn’t sent him in a different direction. He doesn’t mind that much, because his gigantic penis brings pleasure to others, but at the same time he also feels like a prisoner of his sexuality. This is depicted theatrically in a scene in which the “stallion” is literally in a prison in which he brings a prison guard to a climax with a whip. Until then, Cantona’s tools have been kept safe and it seems to end in a joke à la “Boogie Nights” (1997), in which we never get to see the topic of conversation. However, after a few interrupted attempts, Cantona quickly takes him out of his pants and shows it pontifically to the viewer and thus remains somewhat blank for a while, while the other characters are allowed to feel the object for a moment. Cantona having his prosthesis fiddled with by a transvestite maidservant of course arouses some surprise and it is a juicy detail for some extra publicity. The story also contains some more grotesque and imaginative scenes that one by one tell the histories and the desires of the characters, sometimes as a kind of play and sometimes only in words.
Director Gonzalez made a film with “You and the Night” that always balances on the dividing line between tantalizing absurdity and sleep-inducing banality. One moment we may speak of a tasteful pastiche of retro and campy cinematic elements, evoking a successful sense of nostalgic longing for security and human contact amid existential fear. And the other moment, “You and the Night” feels very thin, simplistic and predictable. Eventually when we have finished the actual orgy the film stagnates and what remains are uninspired scenes and cringing dialogues. Gonzalez only made short films for this and that is how “You and the Night” also feels: director summarizes his vision about human intimacy in various sometimes successful artistic impressions that unfortunately do not yield more than the sum of its parts.