The Film 3.5/5
Claire (Anais Demoustier) is devastated when her lifelong best friend Laura (Isild Le Besco) dies. After the funeral she agrees to take care of Laura’s Husband, David (Romain Duris) and Daughter. When Claire goes to check in on David, she discovering that he is dressing up like Laura. Claire is first repulsed by this but slowly agrees to help David’s desire to be a woman. Claire names David’s new found self, Virginia, after the hotel next to her workplace, and they start to do everything together. But sexual tension starts to rise as Claire starts to discover her own true feelings.
This is the second film I’ve seen from French director Francois Ozon. The first one was 2010’s “Potiche” starring Catherine Deneuve, a French comedy set in the 70’s, about a trophy wife who proves her worth by running her Husband’s factory in his medical absence. From that film and The New Girlfriend, I can tell he is a director to keep an eye out for. He blends genres while telling fascinating stories about women and LGBT culture.
His films have a good balance of suspense and emotion in an old fashion structure. While watching The New Girlfriend I got the feeling of a 50’s melodrama and a French new wave movie with bits of a Hitchcock movie thrown in. The soundtrack is operatic and almost overbearing at times. The cinematography by Pascal Marti, is simply gorgeous with beautiful colors and natural camera moves. Almost candy colored in the farm and dinner scenes.
But the best way to describe this movie is that it’s a character study. While not a traditional thriller, the movie more than makes up with suspense and sexual tension that can explode at any minute. The pacing is slow and steady, with plenty of time to let the characters develop organically. The film also handles gay and transgendered themes very well and tastefully. The musical number in the middle of a gay bar is one of the more emotional scenes that builds real love between the characters. It ultimately builds up to a duo coming out scene between Claire and David.
The cast is really good here. Anais Demoustier delivers a great performance. She balances a wide range of emotions from disgust, humor, tragedy, burning passion and boiling sexual repression. When she’s on screen it’s hard to look away from her. Romain Duris plays essentially two different roles seamlessly. He jumps back and forth between David and Virginia perfectly, even in the same scene. Raphael Personnaz is a fine everyman as Claire’s husband Gilles, but unfortunately isn’t given much to do.
My only real complaint is the movie seems to be ten minutes too long. Some of the dramatic scenes almost repeat themselves including two dinner scenes that prove the same information and secrets. The pacing starts to slow to snail in the second act. These scenes could’ve been easily fixed with some extra editing.
This Cohen Blu-ray has a gorgeous transfer. The movie is 1080/ 24p with bright eye popping colors. The greens, yellows, reds, and oranges are all stunning, with only some of the blues looking dull and muted. There’s only some minor grain in a few of the outdoor scenes. Everything is crystal clear. The main audio track is French DTS- HD Master Audio with removable and easy to read English subtitles. The audio is clean and well balanced. No loud hisses or drowning music, everything can be clearly heard.
The extras are pretty rounded for this release. We get a 45 minute making of featurette, 10 deleted scenes (that seem to be cut all for pacing), a theatrical trailer, and previews for other Cohen Media Group releases.
While not everyone’s cup of tea, The New Girlfriend is a fascinating French romantic-thriller with a few twists, even if the pace starts to slow down in the middle. The performances save it from any major problems. On top of this we get great transfer and release from Cohen. Recommended.