Has the “Road Movie” become French and gay?
It’s a question worth asking in light of “Four Days in France,” an exceptionally adroit example of the genre by Jérȏme Reybaud, a talented young writer-director who may be in line to be the next André Téchiné, noted as the most important post-New Wave French film director.
“Four Days in France,” however, pays homage not only to Téchiné’s work, but also the work of several film masters. This beautifully made, subtly mysterious film recalls Oliver Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s “The Adventures of Felix” (2000), Christophe Honore’s “Man at Bath” (2010) set in a somewhat darker key, and for its use of the irrepressibly sleazy Jean-Christophe Bouvet in Jean-Claude Guiguet’s “Les Passagers” (1999). All of these noteworthy works deal with gay life as something very much “in motion” both in terms of character and plot, but most strikingly for the way an “on the road” scenario produces most amenable mise en scenes featuring automobiles (and in the case of Guiguet a tramcar).
“Four Days” begins in a teasingly mysteriously way, with handsome young Pierre (Pascal Cervo) arising one morning and leaving his lover Paul (Arthur Igual) before the latter has even awoken. Something has happened between them, but we have no way of learning what it might be as Pierre has commenced a road trip with no fixed goal or destination in mind.
Besides minimal luggage, Pierre has only his Grindr app — the better to find suitable sexual encounters. It’s through these same apps that Paul finds a means of tracking his erstwhile lover.
Is there anything more “Gay Modern”? Probably not.
But the picaresque adventures that unfold for Pierre are very traditionally French. Along the way he meets many interesting people, including a thief (Florence Giorgetti) who argues with him over which items in his carrying case she will “allow” him to keep. There’s also a Wise Older Woman (Lilliane Montevecchi doing a turn much like Patachou’s in “Felix”), some amenable younger ones (Natalie Richard and Fabienne Babe filling the Mahnolos that Chiari Mastroianni “wore” in “Man at Bath”).
As for sex, Pierre’s most memorable encounter is at a hotel where he strikes up a chat with a handsome fellow guest (Emilien Tessier) who longs to ride in Pierre’s Alfa Romeo. Pierre gets to kiss him but when they return to the hotel instead of climbing into bed together they go their separate rooms and hump their adjoining walls.
Much French countryside is covered (beautifully shot by Sabine Lancelin) and tender feelings are stirred as we reach a finale in which Pierre and Paul are reunited and words of forgiveness are exchanged.
That it has taken 142 minutes to reunite the pair may seem taxing to impatient moviegoers but for those who warm to Reybaud’s cinematic rhythm will find “Four Days in France” to be one of the best gay films in years. Even if you can’t stand Grindr.