The Movie Waffler New to VOD - PETER VON KANT | The Movie Waffler


A successful director falls for a wannabe actor.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: François Ozon

Starring: Denis Ménochet, Isabelle Adjani, Khalil Gharbia, Hanna Schygulla, Stéfan Crépon, Aminthe Audiard

Peter von Kant poster

Peter von Kant, François Ozon’s remake of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, makes its influences clear with a fetching tangerine monochrome intertitle depicting the god of New German Cinema, which lingers on screen just before the action starts. Peter von Kant is as much ‘about’ Fassbinder’s earlier film as it is a narrative in its own right. Duly, Ozon’s typical cinematic playfulness here involves gender swapping the leads from Fassbinder’s female couple to a male relationship. By itself the choice initiates a new paradigm for Ozon to explore his recurrent theme of gender dynamics (viz. esp, Water Drops on Burning Rocks, his earlier Fassbinder cover) and erotically charged desire.

Peter von Kant review

Ozon also crops his story of the titular Peter - a successful and famous film director, meeting and falling in love with gorgeous yet potless twink Amir - from The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant's two hours plus to a lean 85 minutes, making for a more focussed yet somehow lighter narrative. The meta gaiety begins with Ozon’s purposeful mise-en-scene of mirrors and photographs of its protagonists: is Peter (played by a great Denis Ménochet) an espy of Fassbinder, or, even, Ozon himself? Certainly, the arch performances evoke the objective invites of Fassbinder’s Brechtian stylings. Isabelle Adjani turns up as Sidonie, an established actress who uses coke as a way of maintaining her brittle and aloof cool. She offers Peter a line (which he hoofs up in an undignified snuffle) and an offer to introduce him to the fabled Amir (Khalil Gharbia, an Asian Robert Sheehan, i.e.  v. pretty), a wannabe actor. A sidenote: as ever, Adjani is ridiculously gorgeous. Here she wears a cream linen suit matched with a forest green turtleneck, and you are reminded how there is perhaps no other director in the world who is as equipped to dress, light and film beautiful women.

Peter von Kant review

In these earlier scenes, there is a sense of getting plot points into place for what Ozon is really interested in, which is a depiction of aging masculinity in crisis. The relationship of jejune Ali and the complacent Peter follows an inevitable trajectory, and what we are drawn to is Ménochet communicating Peter’s surging emotions and ingrained flaws. Time shuffles and we see the director make Ali’s career, with the latter eventually wanting more than the boujee confines of his mentor/lover’s apartment. There’s no fool like an old and horny fool who’s left it that little too late to fall in love, and, thus, Peter becomes obsessed with his younger charge.

The play-like dynamics of Fassbinder’s original are retained, inviting scrutiny of its central character. Along with the condensed running time, another aspect of its predecessor which Ozon lops off is the original’s ‘bitter tears’ prefix, which could be an entreaty to view Peter with colder objectivity. Certainly, Peter’s desire and attempts to control Ali is closely aligned with his directorial role: a screen test which intensifies to interrogation, and a final sequence where captured representations become sexual taunts from the past, an artificial process which has no match for real experience. As Peter woefully learns, "human beings need each other."

Peter von Kant review

Ozon’s occasional cynicism is a novel match for this existing material, however, wherein Peter, it is suggested, is less interested in human connection as he is manufacturing and exercising trauma via art. As a sly eyed portrayal of middle-aged male despair, Peter von Kant is as cruelly blunt as it is playful, but occasional forays into dramatic farce (a recurring aspect of Ozon that I’ve never cared for, but your mileage may vary) in the film’s second act drag slightly. However, Ménochet’s bear-like performance and Ozon’s deathlessly slick filmmaking make it consistently worthwhile. Not so much can’t as Peter von Just About.

Peter von Kant is on UK/ROI VOD now.