Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The School of Flesh

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The School of Flesh

Article excerpt

The School of Flesh * Written by Jacques Fieschi * Directed by Benoit Jacquot * Starring Isabelle Huppert, Vincent Martinez, Vincent Lindon, Francois Berleand, and Marthe Keller * Stratosphere Entertainment

Deja vu movie moment, number 329: An older, monied professional takes home a desirable young prostitute. The courtesan strips, getting down to business. The client steps back to drink in the prostitute's naked beauty. Sex happens. When it's over, the whore refuses the client's money, insisting, "It was good for me too."

Who would have thought it still possible to write a line like that into a serious picture and not get howled out of town? Unless, as is the case in Benoit Jacquot's The School of Flesh, the customer is a woman, and the hooker is a guy.

You don't reassert a cliche with such unflinching deliberateness unless you want your audience to reexamine a number of meat-and-potatoes assumptions about sex and power. I'd give anything to chat up the writer whose novel inspired this coolly compelling drama of romantic obsession and see if those were his intentions, except that gay scribe Yukio Mishima famously committed suicide in 1970 at the age of 45. What's more, The School of Flesh has never been translated into English.

Screenwriter Jacques Fieschi (Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud) has updated Mishima's post-World War II Japanese milieu to 1990s Paris, and the result suggests reams about the contiguity of experience between gay men and straight women. The incomparable Isabelle Huppert (Entre Nous) plays Dominique, a fashion-industry power broker who falls hard for a piece of rough trade named Quentin (musician Vincent Martinez, two parts smolder and one part goofy grins). Quentin is a bisexual hustler who--deja vu moment, number 330--fucks men for money and women for pleasure. He's a high-maintenance kind of guy: sullen, selfish, explosive, secretive, vulnerable at the core--in fact, a lot like all those pouty, narcissistic jeunes filles straight men have been pursuing in French movies since God created Brigitte Bardot. …

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