Peter von Kant

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One might think it’d be a fool’s errand to reimagine another film version of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s play The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, but French writer-director François Ozon (Swimming Pool, Summer of 85) doesn’t do a half bad job of it. The result of his homage to the German maestro is something at once remarkably faithful to its source but also strikingly deviceful in both audacity and flair. Ozon transposes the central dynamic of Fassbinder’s tale (about a fashion designer, her wordless assistant, and her female lover) from three women to three men. Peter von Kant (Denis Ménochet) is a film director who meets, via his actress friend (the ever-majestic Isabelle Adjani), a young man named Amir (Khalil Ben Gharbia) with whom he falls madly in love. What begins as a romantic affair devolves into something ugly and avaricious, the director soon lashing out at everyone in his life. (Hanna Schygulla, who played the lover in Fassbinder’s 1972 film version, appears as his mother.) Ozon’s recent features have been one departure after another, and this is no exception. Though it at times suggests Fassbinder by way of someone like Pedro Almodóvar—the sheer intensity of its predecessor sacrificed here to other virtues—Ozon’s ode offers a diverting, fresh perspective on Fassbinder’s harrowing melodrama. Stefan Crepon plays the assistant with noteworthy aplomb. In French and German with subtitles. 85 min.

Gene Siskel Film Center

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