Cannes Review: 'Sorry Angel'
I should have taken French in school. I opted for Spanish, as responsible kids often do in California, for it promised to be more useful. However, I now find myself in the south of France — having miraculously schemed my way into the 71st Cannes Film Festival — knowing very little Spanish and even less French. I’ve gotten by with “bonjour” and “merci” as I continue to marvel at the beauty of the language that makes absolutely everything sound wonderful, and wish that I had been a little less responsible. I try to sound out the name of the movie that I stand in the queue for, “Plaire Aimer et Courir Vite” but it comes out all wrong. The American title is “Sorry Angel,” two short words that don’t seem right at all, and I feel as though I’m Bill Murray holding Japanese whiskey in “Lost in Translation.”
“Plaire Aimer et Courir Vite” literally translates to “Pleasure, Love, and Run Fast,” which serves as a much more astute title than the translation it is given. The moody romantic drama from writer-director Christophe Honoré (“Metamorphoses”) fallows a gay novelist and playwright in 1990s Paris named Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps, “Stranger by the Lake”) as he meets and falls for Arthur (Vincent Lacoste, “The French Kissers”), an adventurous student who, like most, is still figuring things out. Arthur likes to read and knows little about authors, which is pathetically normal for kids who have grand ideas about the world but know little of what it actually is. Jacques is more seasoned, falls into a deep depression and can’t seem to put to rest the failed loves that disappear only to reappear again. Jacques, ultimately, may have never loved at all.
“Plaire Aimer et Courir Vite” is one of those romantic tragedies that is sad in all the right ways. The cinematography paints France in blues, deepening the loneliness of the two lovers stuck in their self-destructive orbits and running out of time. Rather than making a grandiose political statement on gay rights, AIDS or a number of other themes that the film alludes to, “Sorry Angel” is more concerned with matters of the soul. Love, or at least Honoré’s depiction of love, is painful. It hurts. It hurts when it is not returned, when it doesn’t appear like one hopes, and when there just doesn’t seem to be enough of it. Love hurts when it’s perfect, too.
And for all the heartache that “Sorry Angel” so masterfully creates through Jacques and Arthur’s own heartache, there are moments of pure, cinematic joy that erupt on screen. A flirty meet-cute in a movie theater, a brainy telephone call full of witty banter, a drunken living room dance party — elements that every good romance needs, yet few actually master. Jacques and Arthur’s relationship is three-dimensional: Their interest in each other, in the worlds that the characters inhabit, both together and apart, makes sense. And that is what makes this French Cannes selection so moving, heartbreaking and wonderful to witness.