« Openly gay, drawn to rural, working-class life who typically works in or near his home region of Aveyron in the south of France, Alain Guiraudie maintains a singular and unique voice in cinema. Many of his films, including his 2001 breakthrough That Old Dream That Moves, lauded by Jean-Luc Godard as the best film at Cannes that year, are shape-shifting tales, anchored equally in unknowable mysteries of desire and concrete facts of social life.
Alain Guiraudie is a true original, a sui generis voice in contemporary cinema who utterly defies categories. His films are, among other things, frank and surprising dissections of desire in all its forms, and they exist in fully imagined worlds, suspended between utopia and reality. »
« (…) taxonomist of unorthodox eroticism, Alain Guiraudie made his Cannes competition debut with his latest shape-shifting pastoral, Staying Vertical. In Guiraudie’s previous film and critical breakthrough, Stranger by the Lake, a cruising ground becomes a murder scene, an outdoor stage for the dueling forces of eros and thanatos. In the new film, sex and death merge even more sensationally in a setpiece that combines euthanasia, borderline necrophilia, and a blast of Pink Floyd-ish prog rock. This is but one out-there encounter in an oneiric odyssey for the protagonist, Léo (Damien Bonnard), a blocked filmmaker cruising the French countryside in his Renault, seeking inspiration for an overdue script and finding all manner of carnal stimuli. He’s drawn to a young man who lives with a much older custodian (possibly lover), and begins an affair with a shepherdess (India Hair), with whom he almost immediately has a child.
Guiraudie’s films are modern-day fairy tales, rooted in concrete glimpses of his native southwestern France but also given to free-associative flights of fancy. Staying Vertical cycles among a limited number of locations—farmhouse, pasture, a winding mountain road, a gray coastal town—as its characters rearrange themselves in an egalitarian diagram of desire. Guiraudie’s great subject, which his films engage in both content and form, is freedom, perhaps never more so than in Staying Vertical. Taking a sidelong look at what most other movies would flag as social issues—single parenthood, assisted suicide—the film also flirts with the mythic, in the interludes with a swamp-dwelling healer and the ever-present specter of the wolves roaming the periphery. The title has the ring of both a rallying cry and a dirty joke, though the film above all asks to be read as a rumination on what it means to be a human being, a vertical animal. The vast spectrum of life is here, from frontally filmed birth to ecstatic death, sex as the origin of the world (several shots overtly reference Courbet) and also the end. (…) »
Dennis Lim in Film Comment juillet-août 2016
Dennis Lim is Director of Cinematheque Programming at the Lincoln Center (NY)