Were Rainer Werner Fassbinder still with us, would his twilight films be anything like Jacques Nolot’s? Roughly the same age as the late, great German wunderkind, Nolot displays little of Fassbinder’s cinematic invention yet shares with him a tough, rigorously unsentimental eye for human intimacy and alienation, particularly when said eye is directed at his old queer self. Indeed, in Before I Forget, the third panel of Nolot’s informal trilogy of French gay life (following L’Arrière Pays and Porn Theater), the filmmaker places his naked, sagging body in front of the camera in a “Here I am, take me or leave me” display that deliberately brings to mind Fassbinder’s own fearless self-exposure in his segment of Germany in Autumn. As Pierre, an HIV-positive, former gigolo pushing 60 and living in Paris, Nolot still has a graying dapperness, yet most of his character’s time is spent on dourly coping with the indignities of age (soiling his pants while driving and being unable to finish a session with a young hustler due to his medicinal intake, for starters). Although the death and will of a longtime benefactor gives the film its arc, the focus remains primarily on Pierre’s quotidian activities: Rather dispassionate encounters with rent boys, sessions with a psychiatrist and reminiscences with fellow geriatric queens. Youth and death are the twin obsessions; the film opens by a graveside, and Pierre freely admits to suicidal thoughts (not to mention an admiration for Pasolini’s “beautiful death”). What saves Before I Forget from unenlightening depression is not just Nolot’s refusal to beg for audience pity, but also his dry sense of humor. When a young cutie tells him, “I hope I never end up like you,” Pierre (and Nolot) shoots back with a fabulous smile of gained wisdom: “Watch out, you’re 29!” It’s this sardonic prickliness that intriguingly complicates the final snapshot of the protagonist, in full drag outside a Pigalle club, puffing on a cigarette with his back to the wall. The last nail in his coffin, or a defiant new beginning? Pierre’s penultimate line, like the film, hints at rueful insights that can understand both possibilities: “C’est la vie.”
- Strand Releasing
- 108 min
- Jacques Nolot
- Jacques Nolot
- Jacques Nolot, Jean-Pol Dubois, Marc Rioufol, Bastien d 'Asnières, Gaetano Weysen-Volli, Bruno Moneglia, David Kessler
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