Once again, with his new film The Witnesses, great French filmmaker André Téchiné surveys the intersections of sexuality and politics, while offering up a compelling study in human strength and weakness. Instructive without ever falling into cheap bromides, dramatic without ever veering into overzealous melodrama, The Witnesses is a penetrating, even essential narrative. Téchiné is fascinated by the ways in which lives interact, personalities cross-pollinate, wounds are compounded, exacerbated, or even healed, yet never in that increasingly mundane American style of overlapping stories that prize fate or coincidence; he paints specifically, creating not vague character sketches but full lives, however defined by enigma or contradiction. Here, as in his superlative (and admittedly more vivid) Wild Reeds, Téchiné introduces complicated people who may evolve throughout the course of the narrative but who are also unavoidably wedded to their specific time and place in history.
The nucleus around which all of the characters will move is Manu (newcomer Johan Libéreau), a young fellow from the country with a face as unspoiled as fresh milk who's just come to Paris, in 1984, to move in with his opera-singer sister (Julie Depardieu). This being an historical drama perched on the edge between the pre and post AIDS eras, Téchiné presents Manu's after-dark park cruising with devil-may-care abandon. Click here to read Michael Koresky's review of The Witnesses.