Before I Forget

2007, Movie, NR, 108 mins

Review

BEFORE I FORGET | AVANT QUE J'OUBLIE
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The truth of the old adage "Nobody loves you when you're old and gay" is put to the test in writer-director-star Jacques Nolot's strikingly different and oddly funny French drama about a 60-year-old former hustler-turned-writer whose later years aren't exactly golden.

Once upon a time, Pierre (Nolot) was a young, flirtatious and eminently desirable young man from the provinces on the loose in Paris, tricking with wealthy clients and cruising public restrooms with the likes of Roland Barthes. Now Pierre is turning 60 and he's entirely alone. Three months earlier, Toutoune, Pierre's benefactor of 30 years, passed away and Pierre has spent much of the interim locked away in his apartment, unable to write and without even his roommate Didier for company; he absconded for Switzerland without even bothering to take care of his outstanding traffic tickets. Pierre only recently has emerged from his depressed, medicated haze, but few of his friends want anything to do with him anymore on account of his constant complaining, and the only people who will tolerate him are the ones he pays: His analyst (David Kessler), the hustlers he meets in Pigalle and gigolos like Marc (Bastien d'Asnieres), whom he rents by the hour. And after living reasonably well with HIV for the past 24 years (that near-fatal coronary notwithstanding), Pierre's health has begun to deteriorate, but he refuses to embark on the recommended course of drug therapy because -- still vain after all these years -- he's afraid it'll make his hair fall out. Pierre's frustration and solipsism is only heightened when he runs into Paul (Marc Rioufol), a former colleague in the skin trade whom Pierre hasn't seen in over 30 years and who, despite having served a lengthy prison term, is doing quite well for himself, thanks to some careful financial planning. Paul's benefactor has also died, but unlike Pierre, who was careless with Toutoune's will and failed to collect a pair of very valuable paintings from Toutoune's flat, Paul has inherited two pieces of very valuable property -- one on Corsica -- has squirreled away several million Euros away in a Swiss account. Not surprisingly, death has begun to loom large in Pierre's imagination.

If the film is strikingly reminiscent of the work of director Andre Techine, there's a good reason: This is actually the fifth in a series that began with Techine's LA MATIOUETTE (1983) and I DON'T KISS (1991) -- both of which were cowritten by Nolot -- and also includes the Nolot's own THE HINTERLAND (1998) and PORN THEATER (2007). Each film traces a chapter in the life of a character alternately named "Pierre" or "Jacques" who starts out an aspiring actor from the south of France and winds up a Parisian prostitute. It's like Truffaut's Antoine Doinel cycle only gayer and edgier, and in this latest installment (hopefully it won't be the last), Pierre/Jacques has reached a pass few films have bothered to explore: The civilian afterlife of former male sex workers who were "old" before they even turned 40. It's not at all necessary to have seen any of the other films in the series to follow this fascinating film, for it all comes down to Nolot's marvelous performance: His Pierre is sulky, morose, self-centered and curiously likeable, and Nolot leaves you wanting to know a bit more about just where this odd figure might be headed. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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