DEKKOO DISPATCH 058 – ‘WILD REEDS’

Title – ‘Wild Reeds

Director – André Téchiné

Starring – Élodie Bouchez, Gaël Morel, Stéphane Rideau, Frédéric Gorny

Release Date – 1994

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Ah the French… While we’re partying it up and watching TV they’re contemplating life and reading philosophy – or at least that’s what they want us to think! Either way the French make some great movies especially dealing with teenage angst which is the subject of today’s dispatch! Enter the world of André Téchiné’s ‘Wild Reeds‘ (Les Roseaux Sauvages). It was hailed as an instant classic when it came out in France in ’94 and even beat out ‘Queen Margot’ (by Patrice Chéreau [‘L’homme Blesse‘]) for the César award (the equivalent of our Oscar). We’re showcasing a new HD Restoration that will blow your socks off!

Wild Reeds‘ tells the story of four teenagers making the transition from childhood in the era of the late days of the Algerian War which took place from 1954-1962. The movie focuses the most on Francois who’s discovering his budding attraction to men. Conveniently he becomes friends with the sexy Serge who is open to ‘experimenting’ with Francois, but nothing more beyond that. Of course that frustrates Francois who feels a real attraction to Serge to which he confides in his best friend Maite, the daughter of their teacher with communist leanings (Madame Alvarez). The film starts with a joyous wedding with Serge’s older brother confiding in Alvarez that he’s heard communists might be able to smuggle him out of the war. When she refuses to help he’s forced to head back to the war where he tragically dies. This sets in motion a series of events that bring the 3 adolescents together to figure out the next steps their life will take.

Senses of Cinema had this to say about the title of the film:

The title Wild Reeds (Les roseaux sauvages) echoes a poetic fable by Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695): “The Oak and the Reed”. Boasting of his strength, the proud oak tree offers to shelter the frail reed. But the reed rejects the oak and, when a storm blows, the reed bends with the wind and survives, while the oak is torn up by its roots. In concert with this, all of Wild Reeds’ adolescent characters need to learn to bend from their initial, inflexible positions and accept the ambiguities inherent in adulthood.

There are so many reasons to watch this film!! Besides the fact that you’ll get to witness the birth of the modern French coming-of-age film there’s a wealth of talent involved in this film that went on to make lots more amazing movies (a bunch of which you’ve probably seen!).

André Téchiné – The director of countless amazing French films. He’s directed some of the best queer films of all time including ‘Being 17’ and ‘The Witnesses’.
Gaël Morel – The lead of ‘Wild Reeds‘ attained much critical acclaim for his portrayal of Francois, but his passion rested in being behind the camera and just two years later directed the popular film ‘Full Speed’ in which he cast his co-star from ‘Wild Reeds’ Stéphane Rideau! He also directed the steamy gay thriller ‘Our Paradise’.
Stéphane Rideau – Stéphane went on to become a prolific actor in his own right starring in the subversive comedy ‘Sitcom’ by Francois Ozon and the popular gay romance movie ‘Come Undone’ by Sebastian Lifshitz.
Jacques Nolot – A very famous French actor, he later went on to write and direct the classic queer films ‘Porn Theatre’ and ‘Before I Forget’.

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Watch it with: With your French film-loving friends.

Mix it with: A French red wine of course!

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DEKKOO DISPATCH 056 – ‘L’HOMME BLESSÉ’

Title – ‘L’Homme Blessé

Director – Patrice Chéreau

Starring – Jean-Hugues Anglade, Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Roland Bertin, Claude Berri

Release Date – 1983

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RARE CINEMA ALERT!! RARE CINEMA ALERT!!

Wow I can’t believe the boys at Dekkoo managed to pull this one off. ‘L’Homme Blessé‘ aka ‘The Wounded Man’ is an extremely rare piece of older queer cinema that has been completely unavailable in the U.S. besides a VHS from ’97! And it’s a crying shame because this is a bonkers gay-as-hell film from one of France’s most famous directors; Patrice Chéreau. While famous in France for his theatrical productions, he was famous abroad for movies like Palme D’or Winner ‘Queen Margot’, ‘Intimacy’, and ‘His Brother’.

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L’Homme Blessé‘ was made in 1983 by Chéreau after working on a script for 6 years with his writing partner Hervé Guibert. In it the pair explore a young man’s awakening to intense homosexual desires that blossom into masochismic longings for one man in particular – Jean – an enigmatic hustler who prowls train stations looking for weak homosexuals he can bully into giving up their wallets. Yup folks – this is not a feel good movie where you’ll feel safe and secure. It doesn’t support the illusion that being gay is all rainbows and unicorns. But I like that sometimes! It’s important to realize how tough it used to be back in the day to be queer (and honestly that still holds in many places). Plus bisexual rough trade is definitely kinda hot sometimes 😉 

Jean-Hughes Anglade (before making his star turning role in ‘Betty Blue’) plays the shy young Henri who visits the train station with his family. While there we begin to see his first tries at ‘cruising’ – obviously something that train station must be very well known for. In a bathroom he stares wide-eyed at Jean – a spectacularly handsome rugged man in his 30s and after re-entering the bathroom finds Jean mugging someone. While trying to run away from the situation Jean catches him and instead of beating him up begins wildly caressing him and urging Henri to help him finish mugging his victim. It’s one of the sexiest criminal queer scenes that exists.

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Afterwards Henri becomes something akin to a slave to Jean. He follows him around, does his bidding, and becomes increasingly annoyed at Jean’s indifference towards him. Of course Jean isn’t completely gay and has a wife which complicates things to be sure. His wife tolerates Jean’s bisexual leanings and criminal lifestyle, but isn’t happy about it. The closest comparison I can draw to this film that exists in the Dekkoo catalog would be ‘Fogi is a Bastard‘. It shares a lot of ideas such as the corruption of innocence, dependency issues, and crime begetting crime. But I think Chéreau’s film delves a little deeper into the darkness of the human soul which I think is why the film divides so many audiences.

Besides being able to brag to your friends that you saw one of the most hard-to-find pieces of queer cinema you’ll also experience one of the most heartbreaking, outrageous, and melancholic films in Patrice Chéreau’s filmography. Cruise it tonight!

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Watch it with: By yourself or with a dark lover.

Mix it with: French wine.

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