L’Homme blessé (The Wounded Man) (1983) is extensively thought to be one among cinema’s most intense and haunting portrayals of a harmful homosexual romantic obsession. It’s seldom screened. Maybe most people prefers to look at homosexual males slip into the staid conventions of romantic comedy, as within the movie Bros (2022)? Is that really progress? Anthology Movie Archives is bucking the pattern and screening L’Homme blessé by way of January 12. Don’t squander a uncommon alternative to see this darkly fascinating, albeit difficult, masterpiece of queer French movie.
The film opens in a banal residence in an unnamed French city. The teenage protagonist, Henri, performed by Jean-Hugues Anglade, is bored along with his emotionally closed-off household who struggles to converse over dinner. The twinkle in his eye betrays a stressed craving for journey.
An surprising flip of occasions takes place when the household heads to the practice station to ship Henri’s sister off to varsity. Henri senses the station’s homosexual cruising dynamics however doesn’t perceive why he’s drawn towards these males. What occurs subsequent shouldn’t be the predictable rest room orgy some viewers would possibly acknowledge from classic homosexual porn — though the intelligent writing of Patrice Chéreau and Hervé Guibert performs with this trope and will idiot us into pondering that’s the place it’s headed. What occurs is as a substitute a dramatic departure that asks viewers to step right into a extra complicated psychological area than that of the “boy meets boy” components. Why are a number of homosexual males fleeing the lavatory? What’s damaged up the cruising there?
Henri stumbles upon a good-looking younger man beating up an older man in one of many stalls. Jean (Vittorio Mezzogiorno) is a rugged, attractive thug. The older man, Bosmans (Roland Bertin), is having fun with Jean’s assault. Is that this an actual assault or erotic simulated play? The naive Henri is irresistibly drawn towards the maniacal Jean. After approaching and roughing one another up a bit within the rest room, Jean and Henri immediately kiss. Jean then encourages Henri to assist him beat up Bosmans and take his cash. Henri meekly complies, hungry for Jean’s approval.
Henri turns into a moth drawn to the flame, pushed by an obsession with the sadistic Jean that he doesn’t perceive. He leaves the security of his residence and takes up the lifetime of a homosexual hustler who robs his tips. It’s a life he doesn’t take pleasure in, however he’s consumed with impressing Jean in any respect prices. Jean, for his half, appears to take pleasure in Henri’s fascination, difficult him to hold out felony duties, tantalizing him with affection however refusing to consummate their “unhealthy romance.” Jean is much from a mannequin citizen. He lives with a girlfriend he neglects. She humors Henri’s passing presence, satisfied she is the one one who can stand up to her boyfriend’s cruelty.
Bosmans, an getting old, closeted physician, acts because the dramatic foil to Jean all through the movie. After witnessing the BDSM play within the stall, Henri initially pursues Bosmans to be taught extra about Jean. Following a recreation of cover and search within the streets, they lastly meet in a restaurant. Bosmans resents his personal twisted historical past with Jean, and seethes with jealousy towards Henri’s need for Jean, however resolves to earn the younger man’s affection. Henri rebuffs Bosmans, however the latter retains discovering methods to show up and support Henri in his kamikaze mission to impress and seduce Jean by way of crime.
Spoiler alert: Within the movie’s climax, Bosmans leads Henri right into a weird underground chamber, the place an unconscious Jean lays bare on a mattress. As Henri undresses and begins to ravish Jean’s comatose physique, he fails to awaken. Has he overdosed? Is he lifeless? Does Henri even care at this level? The movies ends right here with Henri’s bleak ambivalence, vacancy, and dissatisfaction.
In a poignant however simply missed second, Henri’s father tells him, ”there are golf equipment for boys to go to — when you signed up, you’d meet different kids.” The remark raises the query of why Henri is so caught up on this harmful obsession with Jean. Why can’t he go to the membership, meet a boy, and endure a clumsy first date?
What’s the level of all of the anguish and self-undoing on this tragic movie?
As homosexual males, a few of us might need extra in widespread with Henri than we might care to confess. Can we run away from the onerous work of relationship males however then complain about our loneliness and lack of companionship? Can we compulsively log into hookup apps, chase nameless intercourse, or develop into entranced with dangerous, poisonous males? Whether or not the 12 months is 2022 or 1983, a homosexual underworld festers with its solid of engaging rogues who can destructively pull us in.
This movie fails the ideological purity check to be intercourse optimistic. It isn’t a feel-good story. Its lengthy historical past of checkered critiques betrays a elementary wrestle with tragedy in a queer context. Cinema has produced loads of tragic movies about poisonous straight obsessions. However L’Homme blessé is extra intense than different homosexual tragic movies. Is it an excessive amount of? This uncooked, searing depth could be its power as a cautionary story. If a homosexual man’s love life doesn’t mirror the candy “boy meets boy” tales he longingly gobbles up on Netflix, there could be a tough lesson right here to abdomen.
L’Homme blessé, directed by Patrice Chéreau, screens at Anthology Movie Archives (32 Second Avenue, East Village, Manhattan) by way of January 12.