A young woman (rising French star Anaïs Demoustier) makes a surprising discovery about the husband (Romain Duris) of her late best friend, in acclaimed director François Ozon’s witty and moving follow-up to last year’s Festival hit Young & Beautiful.
The New Girlfriend
Like the wittiest dinner guest imaginable, François Ozon tells tales that sizzle. Lust, longing, and broken taboos fill his scenarios, all relayed with precision and style. Last year's Jeune & jolie (Young & Beautiful) provoked both pleasure and censure with its story of a wilful teen prostitute. In The New Girlfriend Ozon does it again, but with increased empathy.
Claire and Lea have been best friends since childhood; their lives intertwined. When Lea falls ill and dies, Claire reaches out to comfort Lea's husband, David. It's then that she discovers David's secret: he enjoys dressing as a woman.
From that simple, saucy premise, Ozon takes The New Girlfriend down an ever surprising path. Having lost her best friend, Claire begins a new relationship with David, who prefers to be called Virginia when he dons a blonde wig and his late wife's chic dresses. Their first trip to the mall together is a delight; yet emotion runs deeper as Claire helps Virginia navigate the complications of his neighbours, his young child, and Claire's own curious husband.
Playing a man who both desires women and is most comfortable in their traditional feminine armour, Romain Duris is outstanding. This is a delicious performance, as David luxuriates in the rituals of makeup and lingerie, and enjoys the sweet pain of waxing his lower back. Rising French star Anaïs Demoustier is a revelation as Claire, her face alive with both elation and confusion.
Ozon relates the story of Virginia and Claire in a brisk, masterful fashion, bringing dashes of Douglas Sirk and George Cukor to a twenty-first-century narrative. Having explored the performance of femininity in films from 8 Femmes to Jeune & jolie, he elevates that investigation to a new level. This is a film attuned to the nuances of LGBTQ identities, but pursuing above all an affair of the heart.
Roy Thomson Hall
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Visa Screening Room (Elgin)