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NYFF: Christophe Honoré's "Sorry Angel"

Jason Adams reporting on the New York Film Festival

The first time they meet, after eyeing each other across the seats of a cinema, puppy-eyed 22-year-old Arthur (Vincent Lacoste) describes himself as a "reader" to the somewhat older, wiser Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps).  Jacques, a writer, is amused by this perfect puzzle snap of self-descriptions. If only timing was as much on their side, his tired but smirking eyes seem to say. They might have made a beautiful movie together. (And hey, turns out they did.)

Some time later Jacques explains that there are four types of gay men. As he goes on to list them Arthur on the other end of the telephone hilariously grabs a notebook and a pen. As Jacques rattles off all of the big names proving his thesis (Rimbaud, Auden, Whitman oh my) Arthur scribbles away, a sponge sucking up all the wisdom that Jacques has to offer...

Christophe Honoré's Sorry Angel is a mournful but love-swept and huge-hearted ode to a generation lost, and to all of these lessons that went with them - the teachers, the mentors, sexual and otherwise, that AIDS stole away from those who came in its wake. Gay History isn't taught in schools, and nobody's parents are prepared for these questions (who shot on who in the Embarcadero, August 1879) - it's a curriculum we've had to learn on the streets. For centuries. One gay man to another. And then the plague.

It is partially a love story, and one that lingers at that, but Honoré keeps wandering off from that narrative through-line, acknowledging that love is not all there is, and not enough to save anybody. Not in a world sliced in half like this. There are dead-ends and noisy thoroughfares all over - these are two people chasing towards a center point that stays out of reach; dreamily impossible. Not even a series of goodbyes - more like a series of the scenes just before and after those.

Yet, like all love stories, it turns out that the impossible is possible, probable, and blazingly beautifully alive, for fleeting moments; they will themselves into being, the slippery little suckers, even on the darkest of nights.

And smiles so hard they hurt your face. This is a smiling movie about sadness - it wasn't until hours after watching it that I realized I was somewhat devastated by its light chatty touch. It bathes in little beauties like long conversations, night-time walks, naked bodies and personal generosities; of people being thrilled beyond words by just touch. Of life ahead and life just lived and the pools where we meet from those opposite ends, where we swim around each other, wet and happy, spilling secrets, discoveries, other stuff.

At one point Jacques looks at a journal he's kept since school and sadly notes how little space it takes up - how small his life seems to him trapped in that container, page to page. But Honoré, to his credit, sees in the margins - the encyclopedia of looks passing over the faces of the people listening to us talk; what the person who's left the room is doing to avoid our noise - and he fills up infinite worlds with it. Turns out that none of our books are single chapters - they are everything, interwoven, informing all the others. Fire bright balls of flame we pass from person to person.  Our shelves burst over, burning high and fast, and light up the way ahead.

Sorry Angel plays the New York Film Festival on September 30th & October 1st.

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Reader Comments (4)

Thanks for this lovely review. I’ve enjoyed Honoré’s other films and am eager to see this.

It sounds like it would make a good companion piece with “1985,” which I caught at a festival and is releasing soon. That one is more of a sad movie about sadness, but similarly bathed in the stuff of everyday life, and quite beautifully filmed.

September 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterER

I prefer the original French title : aimer, plaire et courir vite...Much more subtle...

September 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam

Big Honoré fan here, been missing a new film from him. Can't wait to see this.

September 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterV.

This film is so stunning. You really capture what makes it special. Is it getting a theatrical release this year?

September 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLuanne

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