François Ozon was born in Paris to René and Anne-Marie Ozon on November 15, 1967. This book takes as one of its points of departure the idea that Ozon has consciously styled his œuvre thus far around a number of recurring tropes and themes, one of the most striking of which has been the emergence of adult sexualities and relations from out of the spectral carcasses of real or fantasised family members. Kinship, desire and violence thus structure the narratives of all the films under discussion, and can be seen to stamp Ozon's repertoire of images firmly with the mark of a self-styled auteur. The book discusses considers the majority of Ozon's short films together with his first feature Sitcom through the lens of desire, and demonstrates the extent to which Ozon's vision of human sexuality can be described as a fundamentally 'queer' and 'post-modern' one. It focuses on four of Ozon's simultaneously most accomplished and misunderstood films and approaches them via the perspective of the power relations they depict. They are Regarde la mer, Les Amants criminels, and 8 femmes. The book surveys a number of Ozon's films from the 2000s: Sous le sable, Swimming Pool, 5x2, and Le Temps qui reste. Sexual desire as represented by Ozon is almost always multidimensional and consistently astonishing in its capacity for boundless reinvention. His films frequently employ household servants among their cast of characters. Ozon uses tools borrowed from the toolbox of three genres: namely, horror, melodrama and musical.
Catherine Deneuve cinematic queerness has often emerged from on-screen evocations of a wide range of 'perverse', paradoxical or blank heterosexualities. In 1983 Deneuve's lesbian moments on film reach their peak of exposure with a vampire film The Hunger in which she plays Miriam, last in an ancient race of apparently immortal vampires, able to bestow the gift of several centuries of youth to her chosen partners. This chapter considers exactly why directors gravitate towards Deneuve when trying to evoke or represent forms of female homosexual activity on film. It also considers exactly what such directors actually make Deneuve do and mean once they have her performing these particular forms of lesbian relation. Belle de jour provides a useful point of entry into understanding lesbian sadomasochist cinema's potential for the demystification of the Deneuvian persona.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book discusses François Ozon's corpus in roughly chronological order. It considers the majority of Ozon's short films together with his first feature Sitcom through the lens of desire, and demonstrates the extent to which Ozon's vision of human sexuality can be described as a fundamentally 'queer' and 'post-modern' one. The book focuses on four of Ozon's simultaneously most accomplished and misunderstood films and approaches them via the perspective of the power relations they depict. They are Regarde la mer, Les Amants criminels, Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes, and 8 femmes. The book surveys a number of Ozon's films from the 2000s: Sous le sable, Swimming Pool, 5x2, and Le Temps qui reste. It also considers all of Ozon's output in the context of film genre.
Sexual desire as represented by François Ozon is almost always multidimensional and consistently astonishing in its capacity for boundless reinvention. Ozon's films explore ideas around radically 'unlawful' sexualities that are often reminiscent of writers like the Marquis de Sade, the Comte de Lautréamont, and Georges Bataille. Ozon made the 13-minute film Victor in 1993, his graduating piece from the prestigious Paris film school FEMIS. Ozon made the 26-minute film La Petite Mort in 1995, and it can, in many ways, be read as a longer and less grotesque exploration of the themes already raised by Victor. The two shorts Une Rose entre nous and Une Robe d'été explore the challenge to grow via the unforeseen exposure to radically new experiences of one's own desire and subjectivity in a far lighter manner than either Victor or La Petite Mort.
François Ozon's films frequently employ household servants among their cast of characters. Ozon's cinematic masters and servants play their games in a landscape where they may choose certain sadomasochistic postures, yes, but where far larger, machine-like forces of psychic and social domination devour and consume subjects according to a quite implacable logic. Whatever the critics and audiences made of Les Amants criminels, it is crucial to acknowledge it as a key feature in Ozon's trajectory. Ozon filmed the curiously intermediate-length Regarde la mer, the film that may well prove to be his indisputable masterpiece, over two weeks in 1997. Regarde la mer flirts with the idea of sadomasochistic interaction being an essentially ludic, erotic and socially destabilising practice, then, but ultimately the overwhelming nature of the film's sadism is altogether more inflexible.
Francois Ozon's cinema experiments wildly with both the representation of forms of sexuality and the representation of forms of power. The vast majority of Ozon's films in the 2000s drastically reduce even a playful presentation of new relations constructed upon the ashes of a successfully conjured, revealed and exorcised spectral father. Refusing or unable to touch the various spectres structuring their desires, Ozon's second decade of protagonists tend to give up struggling against them. Like Sous le sable and Marie, Swimming Pool and its fascinating central character Sarah Morton have inspired more than one specifically psychoanalytic investigation of the various behavioural tendencies Ozon chooses to explore. 5x2 develops the keen interest in the minutiae of quotidian conjugality that Ozon displayed in earlier films such as La Petite Mort and Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes.
François Ozon's frequently unexpected recourse to generic tricks and tropes such as suddenly gushing blood, tears or melodies may be understood as an attempt to inflict a far from gratuitous wound on the brain and senses of the spectator. Throughout his career, Ozon uses tools borrowed from the toolbox of three genres, namely, horror, melodrama and musical, in order to bring about 'hinge moments' of this kind for both characters and spectator. Ozon's use of various melodramatic aesthetics shifts between the orchestration of the potentially liberating 'explosions' that sometimes emerge from the genre's very excesses and the sealing-in of character and spectator into melodrama's most rigid familial structures. It seems appropriate to close the survey of Ozon's various excursions into cinematic 'over-stimulation' with a brief consideration of his most excessive film to date, 2006's English-language production Angel, based on the 1957 novel by obscure British writer Elizabeth Taylor.
With Angel, released in France in March 2007, François Ozon's cinema has clearly shifted in a new direction, the exact nature and implications of which it is hard to pinpoint. Ozon's first two decades of filmmaking have offered audiences contact with one of the most dynamic forces to have emerged out of French cinema in the post-New Wave period. The Ozon cycle from 1993 to 2005 explores events and situations that blow their protagonists to smithereens, prodding them towards reassemblage in radically new environs, pulling them in and out of familiar and deeply unfamiliar frames, experimenting constantly with the all-pervasive prodding of change. Ozon's cinema prior to Angel has been a cinema concerned with the recording of the metamorphoses wrought in human life by the intervention of forces beyond human control.