(Une nouvelle amie) François Ozon’s sixteenth (or so) feature works the quirk in love and lingerie in “The New Girlfriend,” a comic psychological thriller about a man (Romain Duris) who embraces transvestite leanings after the death of his wife with the help of her childhood best friend (Anaïs Demoustier). A tenuous friendship ensues, with complications left and right. The forty-seven-year-old writer-director adapts a fifteen-page short story by Ruth Rendell that he long considered making as a short, but more recently fleshed to feature length. There’s frippery and flummery a la Almodóvar and Hitchcock, two of Ozon’s favorite directors, and he also cites Wilder’s understanding of drag as a dramatic device in “Some Like It Hot” as a keen influence. (And not to forget Ozon’s love for Fassbinder, the late rapid-fire genre-gobbler.) I’m never less than fond of Ozon’s pocket-sized larks, and while “Girlfriend” never rises to the opaque provocation of 2013’s “Jeune et jolie,” the genial juggling of light and dark, comedic and dramatic, is assured. And fetish? Nah. It’s only behavior. With Raphaël Personnaz, Isild Le Besco, Aurore Clement. 109m. (Ray Pride)
“The New Girlfriend” opens Friday, September 25 at Landmark Century. The U. S. trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.