(director/writer: Francois Ozon; screenwriter: based on the film The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant by Rainer Werner Fassbinder; cinematographer: Manuel Dacosse; editor:LaureGardette; music: Clement Ducol; cast: Denis Menochet (Peter Von Kant), Isabelle Adjani (Sidonie), Khalil Gharbia (Amir Ben Salem), Hanna Schygulla (Rosemarie VonKant),Aminthe Audiard (Gaby), Stefan Crepin (Karl); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Francois Ozon; Strand Releasing/France 2 Cinema; 2022-France-in French & German with English subtitles)

“Menochet’s terrific performance was in line with the clever film’s tragicomedy artifices.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The prolific French director Francois Ozon (“8 Women”/”Swimming Pool”) pays homage to his idol, the late gay provocateur New Wave German filmmaker, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, by using his classic camp queer, all-female, 1972 film, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, as a reference point for his take on the Von Kant character as being a version of Fassbinder himself, and does his version of that claustrophobic drama by adding some men to the cast.

Ozon’s curious pic has a doppelgänger for Fassbinder in its star Denis Menochet, playing the Cologne filmmaker Peter Von Kant (no longer a fashion designer), who sports a mustache and is dressed in a leather vest and white suit similar to the one worn by Fassbinder.

The bossy Von Kant lives with his assistant-house boy Karl (Stefan Crepin), whom he constantly pesters.

One day Peter receives in his home the aging diva whose career he started, Sidonie (Isabelle Adjani), and gets hot over her latest young boy toy, Amir (Khalil Gharbia), the 23-year-old she picked up during her travels, and casts him in his latest film. They enter a power-driven romantic relationship with lots of shouting matches because of Von Kant’s fits of jealousy over all his flirtations.

Hanna Schygulla, one of the featured actresses from the Fassbinder heydays, is cast as Peter’s weary mom.

Filled with histrionics, it gets over by nailing Peter’s haughty imperious character as likened to a pompous and self-pitying twat, someone not likable.

Menochet’s terrific performance was in line with the clever film’s tragicomedy artifices. It’s a film that spoke boldly to how a successful but insecure queer can get knocked off his perch. It’s more viewer friendly and campier than the Fassbinder heavier version. 

It played at the Berlin International Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 12/31/2022  GRADE: B+