Theater actor Laurent (Takhar Rahim) marries his colleague Julie (Virginie Efira). But the bride does not appear at the altar, breaking the groom’s heart. Now Laurent sees Julie in everyone she meets. To cope with grief and immerse himself in work, the artist agrees to play the role of Don Juan in a production based on Molière in the Norman town of Granville. Rehearsals with the actress playing the role of Elvira (Louise Ribière) are not going well. And the director of the performance invites Julie, who has already appeared on stage more than once with Laurent.
Don Juan was directed by director, film critic, cinephile and actor Serge Bozon. The screenplay was written with constant collaborator Axel Roper. Bozon’s previous film was Mrs. Hyde, a loose and modernized adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Don Juan is even more interesting: the actors rehearse Moliere’s Don Juan, or the Stone Feast, but there are no direct plot analogies between the picture and the comedy in five acts. But the type of hero-lover is similar. Over time, the viewer sees more and more clearly that Laurent remains a selfish seducer outside the theater walls.
The film is divided into two parts. The first story is told from the words of Laurent. Julie appears as a villain who at the last moment abandoned her unfortunate lover – a tragic beginning. The actor does not find a place for himself and sees a runaway bride in the girls he meets by chance. All the heroines are played by Virginie Efira, but in different wigs. And at first, you can close your eyes to Laurent’s strangeness in the form of an unhealthy craving for alcohol and a desire to satisfy grief in the arms of another. The actor is very painful, the nature is creative – anything can happen. But the situation changes dramatically with the appearance of Julie at rehearsals. The new optics allows you to truly see the dynamics of a couple’s relationship. The bride left the groom, because even on the day of the wedding, Laurent looked at other girls. Julie knew perfectly well that nothing would change in marriage. Other oddities in the behavior of the performer of the role of Don Juan line up in a clear picture: Laurent does not play, the actor does not need to create an unfamiliar image, but it is enough just to be himself. For the time being, one may get the impression that Bozon is drawing the story of a talented but unhappy actor in love, but in fact this is a story about an artist of one role. And if Laurent can only play Don Juan, then Julie has many faces and is able to become anyone on stage. Therefore, the director needs a play with Virginie Efira in wigs – this is not a deceptive vision of an upset lover, but a statement of fact, the superiority of the actress Julie over the actor Laurent.
Bozon’s Don Juan continues a new tradition of auteur musicals that can easily leave romance-loving audiences bewildered. The closest analogy is Annette by Leos Carax. The success of “La La Land” returned the musical to a number of topical genres. Bozon admits that he has always been interested in musical films, but only in the last few years the idea of making a musical does not seem crazy to producers. Although the French director confesses his love for classic Broadway productions, Don Juan has nothing to do with the usual musicals. There are numbers in which the characters vocally present experiences, but in a minimal amount. In addition, both Laurent and Julie sing in a detached manner, without unnecessary emotions. This is not a cry from the heart, but a genre convention. There are no memorable compositions, the audience will hardly sing along to the characters. Let Raheem and Efira try, but first of all they are excellent actors.
Roper and Bozon put a classic plot into modern realities and get a flip film. Don Juan still tries to seduce every girl on the street, but Laurent has no victories. Persistent and frontal attempts meet worthy resistance. In the reality of the film, Don Juan is excluded from the game and remains a loner. Perhaps Julie deserved much more attention than the talentless Laurent. If not for the charisma of Tahar Rahim, by the end of the picture the main character would have caused only disgust.
“Don Juan” strays between genres: it is not a very funny comedy, and a rustic melodrama, and a secondary psychological drama. And it cannot be said that Boson succeeds in breaking up the structure of the film into heterogeneous parts. Perhaps the scriptwriters just wanted to talk about toxic relationships using the example of a familiar plot, but even here the French picture does not make any discoveries. Fans of auteur cinema should not miss this year’s film from Cannes, but there are few other reasons to watch Don Juan.