MQFF review: Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo

A sex-positive whirlwind romance, will Théo and Hugo find love in a clothing-less place? Swoonsome.

Don’t be distracted by the infamous opening salvo of Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo (Théo et Hugo Dans le Même Bateau), an extended, graphic and artistically neon-lit orgy scene set in a gay sex-on-premises basement venue dans Le Marais.

Incredibly erotic, yes the lead characters of the title Théo (Geoffrey Couët) and Hugo (François Nambot) meet in the heaving midst of this sweating, writhing mass of groping limbs and impressive genitals, but here’s the thing: so what?

A resolutely sex positive film, writer/directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s glorious Linklater-like whirlwind romance in one night is rightfully unashamed of the young men’s meeting place, embracing the truth that many young folks do meet and get down to business first, then either go separate ways, bump up together regularly or even, just maybe, fall in love.

A swoonsome stroll through the French capital’s oldest streets, from the Marais to the Canal St Martin, Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo also offers a refreshingly modern take on HIV. Intrigued by the intensity of their instant attraction, Theo and Hugo extract themselves from the glistening bodies and head out together into the streetlight night of glimmering cobblestones, but their moment of unguarded passion is clouded when they realise their serodiscordant statuses and unprotected exchange, resulting in a panic attack, remorse, anger and then a trip to the hospital for PEP treatment and realistic advice on the infinitesimal chance of an HIV infection when a partner’s viral load is undetectable.

Is their mutual magnetism enough to see past this slip up? The rest of the film unspools in real time as they wander through the night together until the all-important 5.50am, with the progress of the clock flashed onscreen creating an exhilarating countdown for an audience by now thoroughly entranced.

The curly headed Couët and darker-locked Nambot have undeniable chemistry and the heightened emotions of tentative love spiced with the initial drama make for 100 minutes of exhilarating cinema, with Paris and her early morning denizens wonderful support actors. Carrying the film admirably, Ducastel and Martineau’s effervescent dialogue tumbles convincingly from their oft-locked in step tongues, with cinematographer Manuel Marmier nimbly darting around their cycle-aided tour of the city.

A gorgeous endeavor, Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo is one of the crowning highlights of this year’s MQFF program, well worth staying up late for.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords

★★★★

Book tickets to see Paris 05:59 at MQFF here.