François Ozon’s cinematic eye yet again shines very distinctively in The New Girlfriend (2014). He returns to familiar thematic stomping grounds: the rules of gender and identity, immanent sexuality and the propriety of certain constructions of family life. Ozon has always been able to craft sleek, tongue-in-cheek films that span a number of genres. In The New Girlfriend viewers are given a piece that walks the tightrope between drama and comedy, thriller and thinkpiece. This is a film that artfully ponders the process of grief while also finding rebirth from within. Its an emotionally complex cannonball that is immensely watchable.
In the coming weeks, the two explore a new form of friendship and hone David’s new identity together, weaving an intricate web of secrets in their wake. This is a tightly wound film that makes no moral judgements. Ozon has often incorporated themes and issues of queer cinema into his work; here its transvestism that plays at the forefront of many a dramatic quandary. David tells Claire he is still attracted to women. He loves everything about women so much he muses that it may be the cause of his cross-dressing. Amid these searching questions is an examination of the scenario’s daily application, especially amid feelings of grieving and loss. David’s cross-dressing is a declaration of independence, a way to keep some semblance of normalcy for Lucie (who responds to her mother’s semi-doppelgänger positively) but also it serves as a way for both David and Claire to connect.
In a similar fashion, the parameters of femininity are never concretely defined but rather poked and prodded. Claire cuts a tomboyish jib but David’s new identity allows her to exercise her female expertise, guiding him through a new life. She refashions her life post-Laura in the hyper-feminine mirror David provides for her: she wears more dresses, applies makeup more often, yearns for a child of her own. The New Girlfriend is darkly heartwarming. Ozon reshapes the source material to feel a bit more fairy-tale while maintaining thriller undertones. Veritably, Ozon is firing on all cylinders here, giving viewers a neat slice of cinematic confection the showcases what he does best: present morally complicated but very human stories that have enough panache to keep all eyes at attention for as long as he desires.
Allie Gemmill | @alliegem