Tuesday 14 November 2017

Q aka Desire

Q Tips

Q (aka Desire aka Q Desire)
France 2011 Directed by Laurent Bouhnik
Warner Brothers Blu Ray Zone B

Q is a film by Laurent Bouhnik which seems to have a few titles depending on where you watch it. For example, over here in the UK it is sold as Q while in some countries it is known as Desire and in some, even as Q Desire. Having watched this movie, which doesn’t really have a story in all honesty, I’d have to say I’d personally favour the title Desire because I’ve got absolutely no idea what the letter Q is supposed to denote in the context of this film.

I first came across this movie as an Amazon recommendation. Now I have no remembrance of why I actually clicked and purchased this movie but I suspect, knowing the way my mind turns, that it was something to do with the inclusion of graphic, non-simulated sex within the genetic make up of the movie. Also, it was quite cheaply priced so those two elements combined is why you may see a few of these types of films creeping into my blog for the next year or so. I’ve got no idea what I must have purchased, however, to have had this as an Amazon recommendation in the first place.

Okay, so getting back to it... I said that the movie doesn’t have much in the way of story and that’s true. However, if you’re a regular reader of mine and have been paying attention, you’ll know I’m not the absolute biggest fan of having a storyline in a film anyway, I can take it or leave it and, in the case of this movie, it certainly doesn’t harm it. In fact, Q is a pretty cool film and I can’t help but think the now old (and in some cases dead) guard of what was once the Nouvelle Vague would be quite happy with the way this one has been shot and presented.

The film has a great opening which is almost monochromatic (apart from a slight blue tinge), of a public shower and changing room. We see a woman’s naked backside and general chatter amongst a number of girls before the lady in question turns around, still in fairly tight shot (no faces are revealed in this scene) so we can see her sex. Various other women’s crotches and back sides wander to and fro in the shot as the sexual gossip on the soundtrack continues. The very stark lighting and slight suggestion of blue give this sequence a feel, almost, of an old hand-tinted monochrome movie of the 1920s or earlier. Then, all of a sudden, we go into the first main establishing shot of the movie as we cut to a long, panoramic shot of green cliffs, beach and sea which is almost like a visceral punch in the eyeballs in its placement next to that opening. We see a car driving along the road, it’s almost a detail because it’s so tiny in the shot and then we cut to the main protagonist of the film... well actually, I don’t know if anybody in this ensemble movie can be said to be the main protagonist but, certainly, the lady in question called Cecilé and played with absolute abandon by Déborah Révy, is definitely the character that most of the other characters have in common and it is her manipulation of  the people around her that define the shape of the movie.

In the car, Cecilé is with a stranger who she has picked up in a bar and who she has talked into driving down to the beach where she will try to have sex with him. However, when the two get to it in a public loo, the specific nature of her desires and his lack of respect for what she wants means they don’t quite get things on. Cecilé was in the bar originally to find a plastic container for her father’s ashes so she can scatter them but she has had no luck.

The character of Cecilé hurtles through the plotless movie hooking up with various people and reveling in her seemingly carefree attitude to the pursuit of love, life and liberty but rather than concentrate on her character all the time, the film builds up small pictures of her friends and kind of rubs all the different interconnected characters together. That being said, it’s not a movie which doesn’t have a certain pay off and that is found within the sexual relationships and the way people regard each other throughout the duration.

Visually the movie is lovely. There are a lot of interesting, coloured lighting set ups within the movie so that, for example, the first sex scene between Cecilé and her boyfriend has a blue tint to it... thus highlighting this as a blue movie in more ways than one, I would guess. There are some great little frame compositions too.

For example, a shot near the start of the movie has two friends talking while one of them is working on his car. The car is face on to us with the bonnet up, filling the centre of the frame with one of the two players with his back to us, sorting out what’s under the hood, so to speak. His friend wanders in and out of the shot on the right hand side of the frame by going into the middle of the frame behind the car, only to reappear again a few seconds later. It’s nice stuff and just one of a fair few interesting compositions in the film which mark this director out as someone to pay attention to.

Another scene where Cecilé is alone on her bed and masturbating herself while a storm rages outside is also lit in blue but further shows that the character is not always so good at reaching an orgasm. As she fails and starts crying, the faces of the dolls in her room, cut to in close up, bear silent witness to her failure to climax. It’s almost subliminal the way little throw away shots like this creep into the broader action of the film but it’s good stuff and helps keep you riveted to the screen.

There’s also a very interesting shot which I think is a key sequence of the movie in that the director almost highlights his lack of a constant, narrative thrust. It’s all set in a small portion of a town, possibly a square and... the camera wanders fluidly around following one of our central characters after another and kinda eavesdropping on their mobile phone conversations and then finding another passing character to latch onto as the various people move in and out of the area or, in some cases, remain seated. Some of these characters enter and exit more than once and it’s like the director is just casually dipping into things which are happening as if to say, “look this film is following random characters and just being a fly on the wall.” However, this also belies the fact that there is a constant thread slowly building and that thread is Cecilé... as we watch her seduce various men and women, steal someone’s phone, cause upheaval and generally act like an unstoppable tidal wave on everybody who comes in contact with her. She drifts in and out of everyone’s lives, sexing them up in much the same way the directors camera drifts in and out of the lives of the various characters who inhabit this movie.

However, as we see by the end of the piece, there is some method in Cecilé’s seeming lack of responsibility and personal madness. At least four of the characters are manipulated into taking part in scenarios staged by Cecilé which are absolutely beneficial to their lives and, it would seem, this isn’t an unplanned series of coincidences. Cecilé is doing unexpected, good deeds behind the scenes, as it were. Sexually themed good deeds, for sure but, people seem to end up with a lot to thank her for by the finish of the film and she even, in some uncertain way, reaches a kind of ‘moving on’ stage herself as the film finishes.

And then there’s that opening sequence. The shower scene is actually an anchor point scene and the director returns to it four more times in the movie and, each time the camera is a little further away from the people in the shot, exposing a tiny bit more of their bodies little by little and leaving the reveal of their faces (which really doesn’t’ come as much of a surprise, to be honest) until the last of these scenes.  So the second one is a little further off and so is the third in which we also see various ladies’ torsos. By the time we get the fourth of these scenes, the camera is sufficiently far back for us to see that the shower room is through an opening directly in front of us and we are now in a ladies changing room, where the various characters in question are all in various stages of undress and putting on lingerie. The director maintains the near monochromatic nature of the shots except for one girl who puts on bright orangy brown knickers and, by the time of the fifth and final of these sequences, before the camera drifts up to reveal the faces of the people chatting in the room, also her brightly coloured garter belt. The identity of the various characters in the scene will certainly come as no surprise by this point but, again, the reason for the sexy underwear in the changing room once again becomes apparent as something Cecilé has organised and, once again, it seems likely that some good will come out of it.

There are things in the movie which I didn’t expect to make it past the censor in this country. The film is full of various male and female genitalia in various states of erection and includes hand jobs and blow jobs as part of the performance (although the film doesn’t quite go as far as some mainstream releases I’ve seen... some of the scenes in Michael Winterbottom’s Nine Songs come to mind). However, while the sex is quite full on (thus, once again exposing the terrible hypocrisy of the British Censors) it never once threatens to dominate the main characters or the way the narrative, such as it is, is shaped. Which is a good thing and means I possibly take this film more seriously than certain others. 

And that’s pretty much all I have to say on Q other than the fact that I had a really good time with it and that the performances throughout by the various actors and actresses were flawless and engaging, for the most part. It’s nice to have a film which isn’t demanding a rigid, narrative understanding from the audience and allows you to be caught up in it without necessarily having to have any expectations as to where a storyline might have been leading you. It definitely makes for an unpredictable movie and, for me certainly, that’s half the battle. A good one to put on when you’re alone in the house with a bottle of whisky and when you want to just chill out and let the medium of film absorb you. Definitely a recommendation from me on this one.

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