Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Witnesses, sort of

I may be in the minority, but I'm ready for more movies and books and art and performances about AIDS -- even movies about young, cute, sexy, masculine, innocent white guys dying all the sudden in 1985, which is what The Witnesses is about. There's so much insight and perspective to add after 20-plus years. Unfortunately I'm not sure there's any of that insight or perspective in The Witnesses. It's not a bad movie or anything -- not pathologized were glamorized particularly, the characters are smart and conflicted and fucked-up, mostly in privileged ways even when they're not living particularly privileged lives. There’s a gorgeous hooker with punked-out hair and makeup who does a wonderful ‘80s dance in a red dress with a leather jacket, to some French song that’s so familiar but I can't quite place it. Oh, right -- this movie takes place in France, mostly Paris but also the countryside -- I went to see it because it sounded like it was going to talk about the early years of AIDS activism in France, but all we see is a noble doctor giving a few speeches and handing the hooker a few flyers. The least and most interesting character is the straight cop who has an affair with the young guy who ends up dying of AIDS, while at the same time busting the prostitutes across the street in numerous sting operations -- the doctor, who’s in his 50s, is in love with a young guy who the cop has the affair with -- I mean the cop meets him when the doctor brings him by his house, since the female lover of the cop is one of the doctor’s close friends. You see how it's like a soap opera -- overwrought but more elegant and understated except when the European classical music or opera comes in. I do like the very ending, when the cop says to the doctor that maybe they should make up, since the doctor thinks he's trash for stealing his true love, now dead. The doctor says: I don't think that's possible. And we know he means that there are so many divides -- he knows that the cop busting prostitutes and gay cruising areas and even gay bars with the AIDS crisis as a backdrop -- he knows that cop is his enemy, if only we could see more of this history and tension and the eruptions. And then the doctor, who’s the hero of the movie we’ve realized at this point -- and here, again, we could use so much more of this middle-aged man and his struggles even with all of the crystal glasses at the dinner table, but we've already come to the end of the movie. The doctor has a new lover, I mean a lover since he and the earlier young object of affection, the one who died, they never had sex. So the doctor has a new lover, a cute young guy from New York, and they get on a motorboat with the doctor's friend who just wrote a book about all of this, and the cop, and the sun shines on the water.


james said...

Mattilda - Right now, a book I am reading: "David Wojnarowicz
A Definitive History of Five or Six Years on the Lower East Side" Interviews by Sylvère Lotringer Edited by Giancarlo Ambrosino. Published in 2006. The interviews of Wojnarowicz's contemporaries, (who are still alive) are interesting, about that era of the 1980s. Many were making art about AIDS. I agree with you, Mattilda, there needs to be more art about AIDS, art about now, and art about the eighties. Then maybe, commenting on your post on Jan.29, people might more readilly discuss relative risks.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

James, I've been meaning to read that book -- David Wojnarowicz
is the closest person to an icon for me -- the book is sitting on my shelf and it's gorgeous, but I have to wait until I'm in less pain, oh no!

And this is such astute, compact analysis:

"I agree with you, Mattilda, there needs to be more art about AIDS, art about now, and art about the eighties. Then maybe, commenting on your post on Jan.29, people might more readily discuss relative risks."

Love --