Passages (2023) by Ira Sachs – Review

Second time outside the US, Ira Sachs scores with Passages a sentimental ronde with no feelings, a merciless x-ray of a threesome, skillfully manipulated by a manipulative and narcissistic protagonist. Like the Parisian and apolitical Fassbinder, the film tells about a body exchange devoid of real desire, in an operation of aesthetic and thematic opposition to the great European authorial tradition.

Progressive changes of pleasure

Paris. Thomas, a young director about to finish his last film, is in love with Agatha, whom he met after filming. His marriage to illustrator Martin is in crisis, and Thomas, who has never been attracted to a woman, must at this point come to terms with his own choice and his own identity. (synopsis)

Although Cahiers du Cinèma twice included one of his films in the top ten films of the year (Keep the lights on in 2012 and Love is strange in 2014) and next Frankie participated in the competition at Cannes in 2019, Ira Sachs is not the name around which Italian critics and moviegoers built god knows what specific authorial hypothesis. Last Passages perhaps this clarifies the reason: he is a modest and almost rudimentary director in his choice of production; nevertheless, the film thrives on a strong dialectical tension with the noble tradition of European cinema, devoted to the exploration of interpersonal relations, relations between the sexes, a mixture of theater and life, which in the work of great authors (these are called Bergmann, Truffaut or Fassbinder) has found its highest expression. Distributes Mubi, the only streaming service aimed at creating an accurate brand identity and Passages it is, in its own way, the perfect “Mubian” film of today. Such is the case with the aforementioned references, with the emphatic timelessness of the setting making it both modern and ancient (references to modernity are few, starting with the irrelevance of smartphones), with the coolness of the actor (and Franz Rogowski, with his electric gait and roughness of his face, is the perfect Fassbinder body , in its stylistic transparency does not interfere with the direct understanding of the content and is really ideal for enjoying on the podium (Jose Deshais, director of photography, who has signed many films for Bertrand Bonello, very skillfully hides his presence). Passages it is also relevant in the way it deals with displacements, namely with the “passages” of desire. The plot is sparse, skeletal, slightly more complex than the synopsis summarized here; its spontaneity is always reinforced by a very sparing and essential dialogue: the characters do not tell each other the devil knows what truths, do not express their inner movements in words, verbal skirmishes only double what the images have already explained. Nothing really interesting, let’s say, happens on the screen, all the problems of sexual identity that the film brings with it seem to dissolve in the existential dullness of choice without weight and without consequences. Even narrative twists with the greatest dynamic and transformative potential (such as Agatha’s miscarriage, the ever-luminous Adele Exarchopoulos) are told simply, without any narrative emphasis and without the second truth of the characters emerging from them beneath the surface of their actions.

So much so that Pier Maria Bocchi, in her review for Film Tv, rightly defines it as a film “about a private man devoid of meaning”, since “Sachs works precisely on banality”, starting with feelings. This stop at the immediate data of impulse, physicality (the sex scenes are predatory and rude, which we rarely see now) well reflects the feature of affective instability, which is fully inscribed in our modernity and whose character is so contradictory. than Thomas, both vain and insecure, manipulative and pawn in the game, he takes it upon himself to illuminate the most ruthless and in his own way monstrous features. His doppelgänger is Martin, a more modest one, to whom Ben Whishaw lends traits of delicacy and conscientiousness: he also cheats, but without judgment and seems to be driven, compared to his partner, by a stricter moral code that can make him perceive situations more clearly. know when, if necessary, to end the relationship. The middle pole is represented by Agatha, pragmatic and alien to their intellectual world (here Exarchopoulos, as in the movie that launched her, Adel’s life, an elementary school teacher), but still strongly attached to the family that the other two seem to have left behind. Then Thomas, divided between two countries, Germany and adoptive France, reflects in the geographic shift a confusion that is both physical and emotional, and that the film, true to its intention to stay on the surface of things, tries not to excavate. .
Passages thus, this is one of those films whose virtues (admittedly more potential ones) add up to just as many faults, depending on which angle you look at them from. This is sometimes tiresome and annoyingly prevents the viewer from real emotional identification. However, it’s also a well-researched operation in terms of its form of storytelling (which fits perfectly into the story without causing too much action) and in terms of its market goal of entering a consumer niche for a young and knowledgeable audience. is also a huge legacy of themes and figures that work such as this one by Ira Sachs continues to refer to.

Walkways, trailer.

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