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Garçon Stupide
cast: Pierre Chatagny, Natasha Koutchourmov, Rui Pedro Alves, and Lionel Baier

director: Lionel Baier

91 minutes (18) 2004 widescreen ratio 16:9
TLA Releasing DVD Region 2 retail
[released 12 March]

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
Garçon Stupide is an astonishingly ambitious film. Made for practically no money, this Swiss art-house affair has clearly struggled to find an audience. Given the fact that the main character is gay and that the film features some of the most sexually explicit content I've ever seen in an 18 certificate film, it is perhaps unsurprising that it has latched onto the gay cinema label and the tacky gaysploitation poster that makes it look like a low budget porn film. However, while most pieces of gay cinema focus explicitly on the 'gay experience', Garçon Stupide's gay sex is almost incidental to what is essentially a deeply flawed coming-of-age drama.

Loic works in a chocolate factory assembly line and every evening he hops on the Internet for some equally senseless and mechanistic sex with complete strangers. Living out in the boondocks he makes the most of his maternal relationship with childhood friend Marie who lets him stay over. Loic is also a complete idiot. He's so ignorant that he has to look up 'Hitler' in the dictionary. He meets numerous people for sex but prides himself on never really talking to them. In fact, when he meets Lionel he is surprised because Lionel takes an interest in who he is and what he has to say. This destabilises Loic who realises that in truth... he isn't anybody. So he starts to pick up ideas like being "an impressionist photographer" though he only ever uses the camera on his phone. When Marie starts dating a boy she meets at work, Loic becomes jealous (because if Marie has a boyfriend she won't be able to look after him), stalking the couple and even going so far as to sneak into Marie's flat while the boyfriend is there and stand over the sleeping couple with a butcher's knife. One night, when Marie comes home, the jealous Loic calls her a whore and the relationship ends there as Marie kills herself soon after. At a loss, Loic stalks a local footballer with whom he has become infatuated but he is then humbled when the local 'star' actually turns out to be a humble, self-deprecating man who takes pleasure in his family and has no great aspirations to be important or famous. After attempting suicide himself, Loic realises that he must not be a stupid boy and attempts to put right all the problems in his life.

The ambition of the filmmaker is evident from the visuals. Continuously using rather heavy-handed split-screen sequences and dealing in sexual topics that will make a number of people queasy (particularly when you see the size of the dildo one bloke slides up himself), Baier has clearly decided to shock his audience into submission. However, the problem is that behind the shocking visuals the film simply does not work.

Garçon Stupide is what is known as a bildungsroman. By this I mean that it is a film that attempts to show a boy turn into a man. In the case of Loic this means transforming from a 'garçon stupide' (stupid boy) into a more rounded intelligent person. The problem is that Baier does altogether too good a job in pointing out just how unpleasant a person Loic is. Directionless, ignorant, vapid, vain, egocentric, selfish and borderline sociopathic, Loic is not someone that you are likely to want to see saved. In fact, were it not for the warm-hearted, tolerant and pretty Marie, the first half of the film would be completely un-watchable as Loic stumbles through life flashing his cock at the camera and failing to understand the concept of slavery.

By choosing to make Loic such an utter shit, Baier effectively paints himself into a corner as to make him a well-rounded human being it would probably take a trilogy rather than 45 minutes. In fact, Baier never successfully redeems Loic as rather than showing Loic learn his lesson, Baier reverts to imagery thanks to a particularly nice seduction scene at a funfair and a meaningless and opportunistic scene where Loic wanders around an anti-globalisation demonstration. The film is supposed to end on an upbeat note as Loic writes a letter to Marie telling her how he's going to turn things around but in truth, Loic's reinvention feels no different to his previous reinventions initially as an 'impressionist photographer' and then as a depressed straight man. We're never privy to Loic's internal processes so there's no reason for thinking why this new reinvention should be anything different to the previous ones. Come the end of the film, Loic is still a deeply un-likeable character.

While Baier may have some talent as a visual stylist, his ability as a writer is extremely questionable given his inability to pull together a simple coming of age drama without leaving plot holes where the meat of the film should be. Why did Loic decide to change? Why did Marie kill herself? What was it that made Loic this way in the first place? All of these questions go unanswered but look... here's some footage of Loic washing his cock in a sink.

Having watched this film it's clear that Baier's adoption of the gay cinema tag is more opportunistic than anything else. However, for all of Baier's ambition, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything of real interest in this film beyond the shocking and graphic imagery.

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