Saturday, Oct. 15
GALA’s Tivoli Theatre
Alfred Hitchcock once remarked that drama was nothing more than everyday life with the dull bits cut out. Directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau seem to have taken that wry observation as a challenge. Theo and Hugo follows its titular characters from their meeting in a sex club and through the streets of Paris over the course of about 90 minutes, roughly matching the film’s run-time. In the hands of a novice, this could have been a disaster, but Ducastel and Martineau are skilled directors, and Theo and Hugo is an impressive work.
After leaving the club together, Theo (Geoffrey Couët) confesses to Hugo (François Nambot) that he had forgotten to wear a condom. This lapse in judgment quickly darkens the mood between the men as they head out into the city streets, albeit remaining together.
What’s striking about the world Theo and Hugo briefly inhabit together is how subdued and benign it all is. In 90 minutes, the two encounter no hostility as they lead each other by the hand through the streets, no sneering from the passengers on the Metro, nobody to shout “Faggot” aside from the pair themselves, at each other. The receptionists and doctors are somewhat aloof, but they are kind and polite all the same, which seems to calm Theo’s anxiety. Absent any external factors, the drama comes from Theo’s internal fears and the tension between himself and Hugo. The Paris depicted in this film is one rarely seen in the Anglosphere, a more intimate city known to locals not by its grand monuments and boulevards, but rather by its kebab shops, clinics and Metro stations.
Theo and Hugo ultimately hinges on the performances of Couët and Nambot, who imbue their characters with an intimacy that is entirely believable. It makes the lapses between lighthearted first date banter and accusatory bickering somehow feel completely organic. The dialogue is sometimes awkward and occasionally saccharine, but it can be forgiven in light of the directors’ commitment to realism. After all, few of us carry on conversations that would survive Hitchcock’s cutting room in a recognizable state. And the hour-and-a-half we are allowed to see of Theo and Hugo is as honest and stark and touching as any of our most vulnerable moments.