The breath of life and beating heart at the center of countless, Russian nesting doll layers of artifice and art-house reference, actor Denis Menochet doesn’t just anchor Peter von Kant, he makes the Francois Ozon project a film.
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Ozon wants to show us how committed a student of Fassbinder he is whilst successfully aping his dramaturgy and tone. But Fassbinder answered to no one.
Peter von Kant is perhaps a bit too rarefied an endeavor to significantly expand Ozon’s following, and some LGBTQ audiences might conceivably flinch at its protagonist’s self-flagellation, much as they did with Fassbinder’s. But its skewering of celebrity is mischievously enjoyable and its declaration of love for a queer-cinema forefather disarmingly sincere.
Everything in Fassbinder’s rightly canonized movie is fake, except the emotions. In Ozon’s loving, diverting but inessential homage, everything is real except the bitter, glycerine tears.
Both homage and critique, Peter von Kant astutely gets under the skin of the lesbian-themed original, ekes out new resonances and proves both authentically Fassbinderian and altogether Ozonesque in its ironic sensibilities.
There is something lighter, almost flippant and French-farcical about this new Von Kant: a man brought low by l’amour, inviting from the audience hardly more than a worldly, sympathetic shrug.
Where Fassbinder crafted extraordinary tableaux of self-parodic misery, such as the drunken, prostrate Petra diving for the phone on her white shag carpet, Ozon breezes through this exercise instead with his usual snappy relish. He has plenty to say about the original’s magnificence, but perhaps not an awful lot to add.