Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jacques Nolot, Marc Rioufol, Bastien d'Asnières, Bruno Moneglia, Gaetano Weysen-Volli, Jean-Pol Dubois, Jean Pommier
Written by: Jacques Nolot
Directed by: Jacques Nolot
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 108
Date: 05/23/2007

Before I Forget (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Forget' Regrets

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jacques Nolot's third film as director and actor, Before I Forget, tells the story of an HIV+ gay man nearing his 60s. Nolot opens himself up totally: in an early sequence, his character Pierre wakes up, throws up, pops some pills makes some coffee and walks around his apartment, naked. His thinning hair and thin moustache are perfectly placed, but his sagging belly shows a losing battle with age. Pierre is a former hustler and sometime writer who has lived with a lover/benefactor, Toutoune (Albert Mainella), for some decades. Eventually we learn that Toutoune's will has disappeared and that Pierre's expected inheritance has evaporated. Nolot passes this information mainly through dialogue as Pierre visits and chats with friends from his former circle. In these chats, Pierre compares bargains on gigolos, and brags that he has acquired the services of one young man for half the price that his friend paid. Nolot uses these conversation scenes, always over coffee or food, as an attempt to skirt the edges of the real Pierre. Pierre's surface activities and concerns appear casual and subversive, but how much do they really reveal? But the real Pierre comes closest to the surface when alone. He worries that his medication, aside from warnings about liver trouble and other horrific side effects, will make him lose his hair. Though when we see Pierre and one young man in action, Nolot keeps the lighting low and the encounter ends quickly; Pierre's various medications have affected his performance. But he still enjoys fellating the occasional delivery boy, regardless. He's also reluctant to shave his moustache when one of his young johns invites him to dress in drag and visit a certain club in a certain neighborhood. Perhaps Pierre clings to these things because he has no idea what else to cling to. "What would make me happy? Nothing..." he says at one point, adding (perhaps jokingly?) that a new young lover might do the trick. The title, Before I Forget, suggests that this man is trying to get something important, perhaps final, off his chest as the end approaches. Nolot varies between long, unbroken, nearly silent shots with more standard two-shot dinner table conversations. It's a fairly rigorous filmic structure, searching for -- but eventually not finding -- similar structure in this elusive life. It's a simple-looking film with a complicated center. But there's a kind of sadness in the film that remains untapped, perhaps because Pierre himself isn't ready for it. Nolot is enough of an artist to know that he can simply leave off there, because denying this sadness doesn't mean that it's not there.

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