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:: The short films of Francois Ozon

It’s not until a feature filmmaker reaches a certain status that their short films are released beyond the festival circuit. With Jim Jarmush’s Coffee and Cigarettes recently showing, and the work of directors Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze recently released on DVD, the short film is making a comeback. Now the short work of Francois Ozon (8 Femmes) has a DVD release.

Ozon offers impressive tapas here, with concise, impeccably structured short films. Plot twists are reminiscent of Roald Dahl, while the sensual undercurrents approach Anais Nin’s erotica, without being nearly as explicit. In Summer Dress (1996, 15 minutes), two gay teenagers are on holiday at French beach community Isle d’Yeu. While wasp-waisted Sebastian mimes to ‘Bang! Bang!’, by chanteuse Sheila, his lover Luc begs him to be more discreet. Until Luc dallies with the older, knowing Lucia at the local ‘beat’. After Luc’s forced to wear her dress home, he comes out of the closet.
The cinematography is flashback 1950s, with azure sea, bronzed boys in swimming trunks and rose-red lips. But this nostalgia avoids sentimentality, instead increasing the dreamlike quality of Luc’s experience. And the interplay between the characters demonstrates an essential sexual fluidity present in all Ozon’s films – although his characters may have definite sexual orientations, there’s no guarantee they’ll follow them. In addition, as gay auteur Ozon’s focus of desire is men, it liberates his women from the ‘male gaze’ and allows them to be more interesting.

Sharing the same island setting as Summer Dress, the standout film of the collection is See the Sea (1997, 52 minutes). Englishwoman Sasha (Sasha Hails) is holidaying alone with her baby daughter when ill-kempt backpacker Tatiana (Marina de Van) pitches her tent in the backyard. From the first, something is not quite right about Tatiana, but lonely Sasha wants someone to babysit. As the suspense develops, Tatiana becomes more repellent but also fascinating, an earthy id to Sasha’s ego. At the same time, while Sasha may be clearly normal, she is also a careless mother. While, the relationship between the two is reminiscent of Ozon’s Swimming Pool, the outcome is much darker.