Old-fashioned melodrama, with a touch of the French equivalent of Southern Gothic: Alfred Hitchcock

While much has been made of it being based on Ernst Lubitsch’s obscure 1932 film Broken Lullaby, the opening credits of François Ozon’s mostly (but not entirely) black-and-white movie Frantz are reminiscent of silent film intertitles, give or take the Cinemascope aspect ratio. Ozon is clearly going for old-fashioned melodrama, with a touch of the French equivalent of Southern Gothic: Much like Alfred Hitchcock’s similarly lush Rebecca, from 1940, the film’s title is the name of an already-deceased character whom everyone obsesses about.

Killed in the trenches in World War I, young German soldier Frantz (Anton von Lucke) was the fiancée of Anna (Paula Beer), who one day encounters a young Frenchman named Adrien (Pierre Niney) leaving flowers on Frantz’s grave. Adrien says he was friends with Frantz when the latter visited Paris before the war, and while Anna’s German village is not happy about a having a recent enemy hanging around so soon after the armistice, she finds herself intrigued by the skinny-moustached aficionado.

Although by no means Ozon’s best work, it’s refreshing that Frantz isn’t just about Anna’s fuckability — Adrien is much more l’objet du désir — and he seems to enjoy playing with the color and the timeline without having to be strictly beholden to reality. And that’s not a bad thing.

Rated PG-13. 
Opens Friday at the Clay Theater.

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