The New Girlfriend, film review: Sexuality, transvestism and middle-class hypocrisy

(15) François Ozon, 105 mins. Starring: Romain Duris, Anaïs Demoustier, Raphaël Personnaz, Isild Le Besco
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The Independent Culture

The prolific François Ozon's latest feature is so Gallic in tone that it comes as a surprise to learn it is actually adapted from a Ruth Rendell story. The New Girlfriend begins superbly. It is not just the visual inventiveness that impresses but the sheer narrative economy. In a matter of only minutes, we've had a funeral of a beautiful woman followed by flashbacks which give us the entire history of her life. Her grief-stricken husband (Romain Duris) and her best friend Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) react in a very surprising way to her death.

Ozon is dealing with gender, sexuality, transvestism and middle-class hypocrisy in his usual subversive fashion but the brio of the opening scenes is gradually lost. Those used to seeing Duris as a macho leading man in films such as The Beat That My Heart Skipped or Persecution will be surprised at how delicately he plays his role here.

For once in an Ozon film, in spite of a screenplay full of irony and reversals, the melodrama trumps the satire. At least, Demoustier and Duris give real heart to characters whose behaviour could easily have seemed absurd.