Thursday, August 3, 2023

A love triangle threatens to collapse


 American indie director Ira Sachs travels to Paris for Passages, a movie about a love triangle. Sachs's story acquires extra spin because the triangle's two men are a gay married couple, one of whom begins a torrid affair with a woman.
   Gender issues aside, Sachs explores issues of ego, trust, and self-deception in ways that make for an engaging drama about a pivotal moment in three lives.
   Franz Rogowski (Undine, Great Freedom) plays Tomas, a film director who’s wrapping a production when the movie begins. Insistent and headstrong, Tomas meets Agathe (Adele Exarchopoulos of Blue is the Warmest Colour) at the company’s wrap party. She's in the process of dumping her current lover.
   When Ben Whishaw’s Martin, Tomas's husband, decides to leave the party early, Tomas takes up with Agathe, perhaps because he’s miffed at Martin or perhaps because his insatiable ego demands a celebratory conquest.
     None of this would make sense, if Tomas weren’t charming and assertive. He quickly establishes intimacy with others but also harbors an ego-driven sense of entitlement about the lives and, let's be frank, the bodies of others.
      When Tomas begins an affair with Agathe, he tells Tomas about it, treating it as no big deal. He explains that he’s reinvigorated and excited. He thinks Martin should understand -- and even be happy about the whole business.
      For her part, Agathe, a teacher by trade, knows about Tomas’s relationship with Martin and seems willing to accept it — up to a point. That point eventually will arrive.
     The screenplay by Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias and Arlette Langmann explores these relationships as they stumble along, overlapping at times. It's difficult to believe that the situation can be sustained.
      Any sympathy we have for Tomas stems from the fact that his audaciousness appears to be uncalculated. He can't help being a jerk and even concocts a fantasy in which he can keep both lovers. When Martin dates a novelist (Erwan Kepoa Fale), Tomas ignores his own philandering and becomes unjustifiably jealous. His gall seems boundless.
      A carefully developed personal drama, Passages revolves around Tomas’s actions but doesn’t shortchange the other characters. 
      I wondered whether the explicitness of the sex scenes was necessary but assumed that Sachs wanted to show that a good deal of the attraction here is sexual. Why pretend otherwise? (The film is unrated.)
      No fair telling how the conflict resolves but Passages entangles us in the lives of its characters and has a feeling of plausibility, perhaps because Sachs allows the story to unfold within a small circle, the kind that can, and sometimes does, lead to the unhappy point where folks become lost.
        Put another way: When a triangle collapses, someone's bound to be hurt.

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