In DIAMANTINO—the new genre-busting farce by the writer-director team Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt—women have all the power. Duplicitous, mendacious, self-dealing, disloyal, and—ultimately—loving, a distaff army circles and controls manchild Diamantino on his journey toward an ultimate singularity.
Since the title character in DIAMANTINO is a Lamborghini-driving, tax-cheating, sea-disaster-rescuing, soccer superstar billionaire from Portugal with a distinctive haircut, a disclaimer at the start of the film states the obvious: “No identification with actual persons (living or deceased)… is intended or should be inferred.” With the mental capacity and emotional register of a happy, clueless pre-teen, Diamantino imagines the pitch filled with fluffy puppies bounding through a field of pink foam. But once real life intrudes—his introduction to a boatload of refugees and the death of his father—our hero loses his mojo and becomes prey to every sort of manipulation this side of Doctor Moreau.
It’s no spoiler to reveal that Diamantino manages to find the happiest of endings—as all fantasies must—and the film itself won the Critics’ Week prize at Cannes last year. During its opening weekend at the Nuart, Schmidt will be on hand to discuss his work.
From top: Carloto Cotta and Cleo Tavares in Diamantino; Cotta as Diamantino on the soccer pitch; Sonia Matamouros and Natasha Matamouros with Cotta; U.S. film poster; Cotta and Tavares. Images courtesy and the filmmakers, performers, and Kino Lorber.
Nearly thirty years after his death, Halston—the master of American minimalism and fashion’s greatest cautionary tale—has finally received a documentary worthy of his contributions. Unlike the designs of its subject, the film is somewhat padded with yards of unnecessary material. But this should not deter its intended audience from enjoying the ensemble.
Directed by Frédéric Tcheng—the filmmaker behind documentaries about Raf Simons (Diorand I) and Diana Vreeland (The Eye Has to Travel)—HALSTON hits an early peak when, one after another, his core house models—dismissively labeled “Halstonettes” by Loulou de la Falaise—testify to the talent of the man who could throw a bolt of fabric onto the showroom floor and, within minutes, create the basis of a couture gown:
“[Wearing a Halston dress imparted] elegance and ease. A sense of owning power without being masculine. And honoring the body you have.” — Alva Chinn
“You were free inside his clothes.” — Karen Bjornson
“He took away the cage. You didn’t really need the structure as much as you needed the woman. He really based most of his collections on us girls.” — Pat Cleveland
So where did it all go wrong? Cocaine and Studio 54 may have started the slide—and in the film, jewelry designer and Halston confidante Else Peretti gives a hilarious digression on mind-altering substances and their use:
“We worked all night… we didn’t get high… yes, we smoked, but no hard drugs… well, maybe a little coke…”
Because when you’re working all night…
But the man who introduced Halston to Studio 54, illustrator Joe Eula, traces the designer’s fall to the delusions of grandeur that set in after the move to the Olympic Tower studio, with its lofty, across-the-street view of St. Patrick’s spires.
The irascible, amphetamine-dependent fashion genius Charles James, who briefly worked with Halston Limited, was—typically—incendiary:
“Halston is a middle-of-the-road man who’d be better as a buyer in a store, or a stylist. He knows how to select good things to copy. But his passion is to put his name on it, for which action the word ‘plagiarism’ is correct.”
In the film, Fred Rottman, a workroom supervisor at Halston, is quick to deflect:
“Halston didn’t copy. He took concepts of Charles James’ and relaxed them.”
Halston’s era—the 1970s and early ’80s—was a time of out-of-control franchising. A designer sold his name to and sometimes designed for an array of manufacturers, slapping the cachet of his or her moniker on, yes, perfume and handbags, but also bedsheets, luggage, rugs, car interiors, and—in Halston’s case—uniforms for Braniff Airlines and the Girl Scouts of America.
This obsession to design everything for everyone, trading “class” for “mass,” led to the sale of his company to a conglomerate—a subject the film spends far too much time on. Suffice to say, Halston lost his judgment: How could he imagine that Bergdorf Goodman would want to carry a brand that was also hanging on the racks at J.C. Penney?
The film includes interviews with the designer’s friends Liza Minnelli, Bob Colacello, MarisaBerenson, Iman, Joel Schumacher, Naeem Khan, and his niece Lesley Frowick.
From top: Meeting Gorbachev, Werner Herzog (left) and Mikhail Gorbachev; Gorbachev in Moscow in the late 1980s; Herzog in front of the Kremlin. Images courtesy of The Orchard and the Toronto International Film Festival.
In SAUVAGE—a scathing dramatization of a male prostitute’s decline and fall—the underground hides in plain sight, in the parks and back streets of Strasbourg. Starring Félix Maritaud as a 22-year-old hustler with no name (in interviews, writer-director Camille Vidal-Naquet refers to him as Leo), the film conveys with blunt force and clarity the haphazard reality of a group boys who—by necessity or expedience—have become dazed spectators to their own abjection.
As it turns out, this sense of distance is a vital requirement for the job. In the sex trade, the worker’s ego and subjectivity are useless during business hours. Leo’s fatal flaw is that he’s looking for too much life in “the life.” In love with a fellow hustler (Éric Bernard, as Ahd), Leo also likes to kiss his clients (another taboo), and is both ageist and unwilling to alter his habits. The idea of settling down with an older sugar daddy is nothing he can entertain for long. And as he plaintively asks a doctor who has just given him a poor bill of health, “Why would I change?”
Unwashed, unfed, and unloved, Leo and his tricks come and go throughout the night. In a touch Cocteau would appreciate, one of the johns—an angel of death—drives a black Jaguar, his periodic appearance heralded by a haunting piano interlude on the soundtrack.
Maritaud—already a young veteran of queer French cinema (Robin Campillo‘s BPM and YannGonzalez‘ Knife + Heart)—breaks the mold with a performance that reaches an unshakable core of desperation. This exclusive engagement of SAUVAGE at the Nuart ends on Thursday.
In the art-for-art’s-sake world ofChristopheHonoré and his characters—gay men in love with love and the legends of representation that give their at-risk lives sense, sensibility, and station—matters of love, life, death are navigated through a filter of literature and performance, and this combination of high art and pop sentimentality brings solace.
In PLAIRE, AIMER ET COURIR VITE / SORRY ANGEL—now playing at the Nuart—the brief 1990s encounter of Jacques (PierreDeladonchamps) and Arthur (Vincent Lacoste) is haunted by the long shadows and quotations of some of the writers Honoré recently celebrated in his stage piece Les Idoles—Bernard-Marie Koltès, Hervé Guibert—supplemented by queer icons and allies Jean Genet, Isabelle Huppert, Robert Wilson, Walt Whitman, W.H. Auden, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
Jacques, not willing to undergo yet another course of AIDS treatment, is reaching the end of his story just as Arthur—like Honoré, a transplant from the provinces—is beginning his. With a little help from his idols, Jacques can put Arthur on the path to become a proper young Parisian.