This French film about transgender from director François Ozon stars actor Romain Duris (Populaire) and Anais Demoustier (Marguerite & Julien): a stunning comic thriller entitled The New Girlfriend. Ruth Rendell's eponymous short story formed the basis of Ozon's film, but in his adaptation of The New Girlfriend, Ozon has taken a straight-talking murder mystery and turned it into something completely unique.
French transgender film
The New Girlfriend plot kicks off on a peculiar note – and doesn't cease surprising its audience during the two-hour long rollercoaster that follows.
The film begins by introducing us to childhood friends Claire and Laura, as Ozon embarks on a long narrative opening sequence, hurtling through their shared adolescence and adulthood with the cheerful tone of a coming-of-age comedy. When Laura's premature death puts an end to their close friendship, the film becomes something else entirely.
Review: The New Girlfriend
The rest of The New Girlfriend follows Claire, as she comes to terms with Laura's death, all the while attempting to come to the aid of Laura's grieving husband David, whose unusual secret she has inadvertently discovered – namely that he is, inside, a woman.
What's most brilliant about François Ozon's film is how subtly and naturally he integrates the comedic elements. Ozon does not address his transgender subject as something 'other', but all its subjects are treated as individuals; their flaws extrinsic to their identities.
Romantic comedy meets erotic thriller
Comic elements mingle with darker ones, and the film flits from romantic comedy to melodrama to documentary to erotic thriller. Certain scenes seem to belong to different films entirely: cheesy shopping montages with Katy Perry soundtracks jar strikingly with necrophiliac dream sequences, yet, somehow, it's considered; it's all achieving the film's message: this is queer cinema at its most queer, a celebration of the unexpected.
French Director Ozon
It's when David is able to be his true female self that the film feels most natural, and when we laugh, we are laughing not at her but with her, sharing her joy in the transformation.
Ozon draws elements in his film from the early farcical comedies that mock cross-dressing – the realms of Some Like It Hot – but in doing so he inverts the bias and places them in a natural and open dialogue about gender identity: when bigotry strikes, it feels out of place with the narrative– these moments are those that stand out, whilst the sexual elements flit by somewhat unnoticed.
A surreal fairytale with unexpected conviction
In Romain Duris, Francois Ozon has found his perfect hero-heroine: his lapses into melodrama are constantly entertaining, his humour infectious. The New Girlfriend tells its audience that perversity lies in the hands of the bigoted, and not the dispossessed.
Whilst occasionally the film feels exploitative, and is not without flaws, by the time the credits roll any stereotypes are redeemed by the film's overall warmth. It's fantasy, but there is a truth in the fairytale that rings strangely true.
The New Girlfriend, will exceed expectations, and challenge those viewers who come to it with minds even a little open. A much overdue demand for films about identity not to be relegated to the queer cinema scene, but to be invited into the mainstream, The New Girlfriend doesn't resort to 'playing it safe' or hiding under shelter of slapstick comedy. Watch The New Girlfriend: a heartwarming tale of unexpected love.
|What||The New Girlfriend|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
22 May 15 – 31 Aug 15, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here to go to The New Girlfriend IMDB page.|