HollywoodChicago.com RSS   Facebook   HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter   Free Giveaway E-mail   

‘The Witnesses’ Bear the AIDS Burden of a Time Less Remembered

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
Average: 4 (1 vote)

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5CHICAGO – While Paris, France in 1984 probably wasn’t as romantic as the Paris in several of its other lionized eras, it existed just the same. As portrayed in “The Witnesses,” it was an age that may have been more uncertain than the others based on a melting pot of inhabitants who immigrated to the City of Lights in search for a new life.

Johan Libéreau in The Witnesses
Johan Libéreau in “The Witnesses”.
Photo credit: Strand Releasing

But it was also an age where the co-mingling of that particular generation produced some unintended consequences. The story of who survived and who didn’t defined our nature for several years to come.

Portrayed by Emmanuelle Béart, Sarah is a writer of children’s books who has just had her first child. She is married to a police officer, Mehdi (Sami Bouajila), and has several loyal friends. One of her best friends is a gay, middle-aged doctor named Adrien (Michel Blanc).

He’s thrilled to introduce her to his new young lover: Manu (Johan Libéreau). Manu is a player, however, and sets his sights on Mehdi. The two begin a secret affair that evolves into obsessive love. Manu escapes Paris because of the complications that arise.

In the meantime, Adrien can’t get over his feelings for Manu. He pursues him through his job at a holiday camp and discovers that the boy has become strangely ill. It’s a strain of skin cancer that’s rare but shows up with more frequency in the Paris clinics where Adrien works.

Sami Bouajila (left), Emmanuelle Beart (second to left), Johan Libéreau (second to right) and Michel Blanc (right) in The Witnesses
Sami Bouajila (left), Emmanuelle Beart (second to left), Johan Libéreau (second to right) and Michel Blanc in “The Witnesses”.
Photo credit: Strand Releasing

It’s caused by the HIV virus, and in Manu’s case, it has become full-blown AIDS. The characters deal with this mysterious new malady in divergent ways.

Mehdi (Manu’s former lover) sweats through a blood test and becomes estranged from Sarah. Adrien becomes part of a French research team that isolates the viral strain. Manu’s sister – an aspiring opera singer named Julie – is frustratingly isolated from her brother. Manu’s disease becomes a world crisis.

It’s interesting to note these different reactions within “The Witnesses”. The disease was so new and so sudden that those effected by it – in both a physical and emotion sense – hardly knew what hit them. Sarah’s character, for example, finds that she can’t connect to her new child.

RELATED IMAGE GALLERY
StarView our full “The Witnesses” image gallery.

RELATED READING
StarRead more film reviews from critic Patrick McDonald.

She opens up to her mother to find out why. Adrien’s brittle and angry doctor evolves to stoic heroism in the pursuit of the viral research.

There are some broad lines drawn especially in the martyred AIDS sufferer Manu. Not much is understood about him aside from his predilection for sleeping around and being pursued compulsively by two other men. His character feels incomplete and his anger at the condition misused.

The narrative pace also slackens toward the end of the film. As in real life, often the main crisis morphs into a continuance that has no slam-bang conclusion. Rather, we just see a small hope that awakes to experience another sunrise. As Ernest Hemingway once said, Paris is a moveable feast.

“The Witnesses” opened on May 16, 2008. In Chicago, the film plays at the Music Box Theatre.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2008 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Hot stories on the Web


User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing

TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Drunk History Seasons 1 & 2, 2014

    CHICAGO – The awesomeness of history loses any of its stuffiness with the incredibly fun, indeed educational show “Drunk History” from Comedy Central, its two seasons now released on DVD. Hosted by its creator Derek Waters, the show is a celebration of various historic figures and their under-appreciated true tales, as expressed by funny people narrating in the universal language of inebriation; their recounts are then reenacted by famous actors working with their given dialogue, dressed with the comic cheapness of a bloated biopic.

  • Happy Christmas

    CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.

Advertisement


HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter

archive

HollywoodChicago.com Top Ten Discussions
referendum
tracker