Peter von Kant – Film Review
by Frank L.
Director – François Ozon
Writer – François Ozon(screenplay), Rainer Werner Fassbinder(based on the film by)
Stars – Denis Ménochet, Isabelle Adjani, Khalil Ben Gharbia
Francois Ozon has adapted Renate Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 film “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” primarily by altering the gender of many but not all of the characters. The central figure is one Peter von Kant (Denis Menochet), a successful film director, who lives in some considerable luxury in a swishly appointed apartment with his assistant Karl (Stefan Crepon) whom he treats with at best disdain. His favorite actress Sidonie (Isabelle Adjani) introduces into his world a young actor Khalil Ben Gharbia (Amir Ben Salem) with whom Peter becomes hopelessly infatuated. But Khalil is no innocent and is not to be manipulated by Peter and a rupture is inevitable. Peter lives a life on several levels and his mother Rosemarie (Hanna Schygulla) remains a powerful figure in his existence and his daughter Gabriele (Aminthe Audiard) creates yet another point of pressure. He handles all these challenges with humour and explosive outbursts assisted by drugs and alcohol. All is observed is observed by the silent, knowing Karl.
The intensity of the relationships which Peter has with each of these individuals and the claustrophobic world in which he exists is intensified by the fact that the entire of the action takes place within his swish apartment. He is trapped in a gilded cage from which there is no escape.
The acting of the entire cast is admirable with Menochet an inspired piece of casting as Peter. He is petulant, deceitful, self indulgent and in many ways infuriating but always someone with whom you want to engage. Film aficionados, particularly those who are admirers of Fassbinder, will find all sorts of aspects of this film to compare and contrast with what Fassbinder created in 1972 However, knowledge of Fassbinder or of the 1972 film is not necessary in order to appreciate this intense, at times humorous, at times camp life of a successful film director in the early nineteen seventies. That said it is interesting that Ozon has chosen to omit the phrase “The bitter tears…” from the title of his adaptation. However, when all is analysed Peter is alone in his apartment and this grim reality Menochet, in all of the chaos of the comings and goings, conveys assuredly.
Ozon is a masterful film director. He has taken a script from a film fifty years old and re-imagined it. Peter von Kant is a figure of tragedy and Ozon and Menochet proclaim that fact. Watch the film and perhaps then revisit Fassbinder’s 1972 film in order to carry out your own comparison. It is a stylish adaptation and reworking of the original.
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