François Ozon’s declaration of love to Fassbinder

In Peter Von Kant, François Ozon brings to the screen one of RW Fassbinder’s many masterpieces, The bitter tears of Petra Von Kant(1972), and acts in a kind of transmutation in which the German filmmaker, who died of an overdose at just 37 years of age, is suddenly resurrected to be worthy of the irresistible Denis Ménochet.

For his 21e feature film, François Ozon took over Bitter Tears by Petra Von Kant, one of the cinematographic pillars of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s monument – his first release in France – which is particularly prominent Everyone else is called Ali (1974), another beautiful melodrama (inspired by All that heaven allows by Douglas Sirk, master of melodrama in which Fassbinder draws a lot of inspiration) from the German director and director who died of an overdose in 1982 after being chained to films with a loud, not to say superhuman , which is fast. About forty films in less than 15 years, enough to compete with the same prolific filmography of François Ozon! We will discuss, among his most recent weapons works, Young and handsome, Frantz, Thank God (where Denis Ménochet has already appeared)Summer 85 or All is well, just released in September.

on The bitter tears of Petra Von KantRW Fassbinder transposed to the screen, as is often the case, one of his own games, here centered on a famous stylist, Petra Von Kant (Margit Carstensen), playing with her aura to seduce Karin, a young model composed by Hanna Schygulla, Fassbinder’s favorite actress – who was also invited by François Ozon to play, in the main symbol role, the mother of Peter Von Kant.

Presented in February at the opening of the last Berlin Film Festival, the film remains true to Fassbinder’s work as it is overwhelmed with unspeakable joy. Petra becomes director Peter (Denis Ménochet) there; her muse and confidant, Sidonie (Katrin Schaake), takes on the parts of Isabelle Adjani in a diva role that couldn’t be better adapted; his assistant who kneels in silence and submits, Marlene (Irm Hermann), becomes equally deaf as Karl (Stefan Crepon); Karin turns into a young acting actor, Amir (Khalil Ben Gharbia), who immediately gets the drunken look of Peter Von Kant.

Little, many, enthusiastic…

Ozon’s film then replays Fassbinder’s work in the same depressing setting, Von Kant’s apartment limits the violent scene where Petra/Peter pours his feelings into excess, from hate to most excessive love. The rhythm of the dialogues is more continuous there, the setting is less theatrical, the line is enlarged, the camera is more mobile. The melodrama is still felt, but slowed down a bit, the sequence of scenes and scenarios then gives the film a layer of comedy. We find there, sometimes the same, some replicas, some objects and whole sections of decoration, beginning with the monumental copying of Midas before Bacchus (1630) by Nicolas Poussin.

In Ozone, the adaptation of Bitter Tears by Petra Von Kant so the occasion for a fair game of differences (at least for those who saw or went to see Fassbinder’s film) and danger, which can go through a little snobbish and affected remake if it is not doubled in a deeper and, we bet, sincere reflection on the pains of artistic creation, paints the void in Fassbinder’s own image.

© Carole Bethuel

We have a right to question, beyond the formal act of changing the gender of the main characters, the added value of this remake compared to the original work. Like when Gus Van Sant dared to change Psychosis (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) shot by shot – the filmmaker then retains the literal meaning of the remake; a formal experience that is more than an artistic performance worthy of Andy Warhol (Gus Van Sant recently put on a musical show around the genius of Pop Art). Ozon’s film is in this vein: it’s no coincidence that the film’s poster is almost identical to Fassbinder’s last feature film, Fight (1982), drawn by Andy Warhol, except that Fassbinder’s film is definitely not as anchored in the collective imagination as Hitchcock’s film.

peter von kant Above all, the fascination with the French director of Fassbinder is revealed, composed, it is understandable, in a mistake Denis Ménochet, for which we expect him. In the turn of a reflection, Ménochet, sunglasses taped to his forehead, suddenly turned into Fassbinder; a way to exorcise the image of the German director, who hides himself under the elements of a female character to provoke, between the lines, his troubled relationship with actor Günther Kaufmann. This is precisely the betrayal, in this way Ozone “unmasking” Fassbinder to better define his character, giving the film its comfort and its originality.

François Ozon’s film is filled with mirrors, the palace of mirrors comprising Von Kant’s apartment showing the director’s psyche and his compelling way of taking from his relationships of domination with others the material of his work. . A role fully claimed in the Ozone game, as Karl, the bound assistant, taps the future master script on the typewriter while Peter Von Kant shows his feelings in front of the camera, as gave birth alive, by an individual decline. in the case of an object, in its next scenario. In doing so, peter von kant holds a mirror to Fassbinder and his own relationship to cinema, especially through this constant porosity between the construction of a story and the turbulent life of the German director.

Everything gives way under the weight of his desire, as Amir bows under Von Kant’s compelling camera gaze during the casting session, re-emphasizing this boundary between destructive love and space. to the director. hidden in his apartment.

© Carole Bethuel

The vice immediately tightened around Amir as the camera stared at him, like the muscular extension of Von Kant’s body, simultaneously with his impulses, his desire to penetrate others, to have them completely, from all angles.and cover it is in love. Ozon’s play is immediately intended to reflect Fassbinder’s forced, violent, troubled relationship with cinema: filming to exhaustion, loving too much, printing his fantasies in film.

In skill, peter von kant go beyond the stage of a style exercise and become a reflective film in cinema, with this sprawling director character just enjoying his love for ghosts, projections. So in the final shots, the scrolling images of Amir, projected on a makeshift screen, remind us of the extent to which Von Kant has moved his own creatures (“I prefer the actress over the girl”he would say the part of Sidonie) and completely deprive the other of his membership, of which the devout Karl was the symptom from the beginning.

Peter Von Kant, by François Ozon, with Denis Ménochet, Isabelle Adjani, Khalil Ben Gharbia, Hanna Schygulla, 1h25, in theaters July 6, 2022

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