THE ISLANDS OF YANN GONZALEZ
Color, 2022, 135 mins.
Directed by Yann Gonalez
Altered Innocence (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
YOU AND THE NIGHT
2013, 92 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Yann Gonzalez
Starring Kate Moran, Niels Schneider, Nicolas Maury, Eric Cantona, Fabienne Babe, Alain-Fabien Delon, Julie Brémond, Béatrice Dalle
Altered Innocence (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Potemkine Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 HD/PAL), Strand Releasing (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
After delivering one of the more memorable European horror films in recent memory with his sophomore feature Knife + Heart, filmmaker Yann Gonzalez confirmed he was a singular artist to watch. His short films, music videos, and underseen but striking debut film, You and the Night (Les rencontres d'après minuit), all made their mark on anyone who watched them with a sensibility combining transgressive horror, gender-bending erotica, and lush visuals, all often combined with music by pioneering French group M83 (whose Anthony Gonzalez is the director's brother). The always fascinating label Altered Innocence scored a big early hit with Knife + Heart, and now it returns to deliver a lot more with the two-disc set featuring The Islands of Yann Gonzalez (a collection of the bulk of his short work) and the long overdue U.S. Blu-ray debut of You and the Night.
The program of shorts beings with We Will Never Be Alone Again (Nous ne serons plus jamais seuls) (2012) (10m14s), a plotless, black-and-white look at the exuberance fo several teenagers cutting loose at a nightclub where they dance and fall in love before dawn arrives to the strains of M83 music (an ending that feels like a sketch for the finale of You and the Night). Then in the film Gonzalez says he now feels embarrassed by the most, I Hate You Little Girls (Je vous hais petites filles) (2008, 43m27s), regular muse Kate Moran shines as a Kate, a sexually frustrated rock singer hung up on her dead boyfriend, Julien (Damien Gourmelon), while starting a tentative relationship with another club regular, Ben (Pierre-Vincent Chapus). Though a bit too long, it has some great moments including a wild graveyard ending. By the Kiss (2006, 5m20s) is a very quick and haunting sketch with Moran being kissed in very different ways by a variety of passerby against a wall, while Three Celestial Bodies (Les astres noirs) (2009, 15m31s) was commissioned as part of a film series involving musicians with this one featuring the popular Julien Doré as a mystical wish bringer summoned by three teenagers for a session of body projection, bleeding, flute playing, and a melancholy pact.
Intermission (Entracte) (2007, 15m36s) is a funny vignette with Moran and Salvatore Viviano having a stilted conversation about pop culture, flashing the camera, doing a fun impromptu performance of Lio's "Amoreux Solitaries," and reuniting with dead boyfriend Chapus, all shot by future Portrait of a Lady on Fire cinematographer Claire Mathon. In Land of My Dreams (2012, 20m36s), the homeless Bianca (Julie Brémond) gets picked up on the beach by a traveling performer (Paula Guedes), purporting to be her mother, who brings her along from town to town in her wagon for a string of increasingly elaborate and sexually charged outdoor performances. Finally the wildest and most graphic of the bunch, Islands (2017, 23m57s), begins with a young couple in love (Mathilde Mennetrier and Alphonse Maîtrepierre) whose intimate session turns into a crazed threesome with a grotesque monster before... well, you'll just gave to see it for yourself.
All of the films here look great with most remastered, with Intermission obviously looking the weakest since it was shot on DV versus film. Otherwise they're pretty much all pristine and feature really epic DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtracks with strong channel separation throughout for all the music. Also in a bonus features section is a bunch of other odds and ends including four music videos: Croche's "Rotten Plum," Loki Starfish's "Drifting Sun," Jita Sensation's "Fou de Bassan," and the most familiar one, Perez's gory and outrageous "Les Vacances Continuent" which played before some screenings as Knife + Heart (and appeared on that Blu-ray as well as Altered Innocence Vol. 1). Plus you get a Festival Escrans Mixtes trailer ("Again, Again, Again"), a gorgeous Cesar Awards - Revelations trailer ("Aither"), a "She Mirror" video mix tape of various porn queens turned into a hazy fantasy, the very early VHS-sourced short "Something (Behind)," a trailer for this compilation, and bonus trailers for Knife + Heart, After Blue (Dirty Paradise), Altered Innocence Vol. 1, and Equation to an Unknown.
Disc two is devoted to You and the Night and its own bonus features, finally delivering a worthy U.S. release long after Strand's DVD and the pricey, tough-to-import French combo pack. A peculiar relationship exists between young lovers Ali (Moran), eye patch-wearing Matthias (Schneider), and their cross-dressing maid, Udo (Call My Agent!'s Maury), who all live together in a swanky apartment where they're planning a midnight orgy. Ali has dreams of being separated from her love by a mystery man on a motorcycle, while Matthias regularly drifts off into a netherworld he describes as the land of the dead. In their apartment is a sensory jukebox that can reveal your true feelings, while the guests include the Stud (sports star Cantona), the Teen (Delon), and the aggressive Slut (Brémond) who demands constant sex but has something else going on underneath. A later arrival is the Star (Babe), who at first insists on only participating in the dark but soon comes to accept the situation as well. Together their planned night of indulgence turns into a dark night of the soul as their true desires and dreams come to the surface.
Despite the subject matter and a handful of deliberately provocative moments (including a funny scene-stealing prosthetic appendage, a crazed cameo by live wire Béatrice Dalle involving a whip and a cage, and a memorable female fluid surprise), You and the Night is far more restrained and dreamy than shocking. The pulsating score by M83 is a major highlight, and the story takes some rather gorgeous left turns including a dip into full-on supernatural horror halfway through and a haunting, very emotional ending that might catch you off guard. The Blu-ray looks and sounds exquisite with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 French track (with English or Spanish subtitles) really filling the room every time that score kicks in. The extras start with an English-language interview with Gonzalez (20m9s) about his filmmaking career, the roles of sex and death in his work, the development of the script. Also included is a reel of scene commentaries (12m42s) featuring on-camera reactions from Gonzalez and combinations of Moran, Maury, and Schneider during highlights from the film, plus a technical featurette (4m30s) made three weeks before filming trying out film sensitivity, costumes, and lighting (with Gonzalez commentary), and the original trailer. The set also comes with a 20-page booklet featuring an in-depth interview with Gonzalez by poetess Élodie Petit and notes on the individual shorts by the director.
YOU AND THE NIGHT
Reviewed on April 23, 2022