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The Independent Critic

Pierre Niney, Paula Beer
Francois Ozon
Francois Ozon (Scenario), Philippe Piazzo (In Collaboration with), Ernst Lubitsch (Movie, "Broken Lullaby")
Rated PG-13
113 Mins.
Music Box Films (USA)

 "Frantz" One of Ozon's Best Films to Date 
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Opening in Indianapolis on April 14th at Landmark's Keystone Art Cinema, Francois Ozon's Frantz is a must see film for fans of the filmmaker who gave us such extraordinary films as Potiche, Swimming Pool, and Under the Sand. The film is set in both France and Germany in the immediate aftermath of World War I. Anna (Paula Beer) is a young German woman grieving the loss of her fiance' Frantz during trench warfare, while Adrien (Pierre Niney) is a French veteran of the war who inexplicably shows up in her town rather mysteriously and, perhaps even more mysteriously, takes to laying flowers on Frantz's grave. In a small German town still reeling from defeat in the war, Adrien's presence is met with resistance and resentment. Anna, on the other hand, grows closer to Adrien amidst his stories of a deep friendship with Frantz. 

Frantz is both an intellectually satisfying and emotionally resonant film, largely black-and-white in presentation and far more straightforward of a film than we would usually expect from Ozon. Inspired by Ernst Lubitsch's 1932 film Broken Lullaby, Frantz maintains key similarities to that film while also creating a vision all Ozon. In fact, while Frantz is a more straightforward film than usual for Ozon this shouldn't be taken to mean that Ozon has abandoned those things that have made him such a beloved filmmaker. Ozon is, and likely always will be, a master of misdirection and a filmmaker whose works almost without exception possess a remarkable sensuality and openness to sexuality. Adrien, as played by Pierre Niney, projects a rather genteel presence with hints of a homo-eroticism that is often found in Ozon's films. 

To give too much of Frantz away is tempting, yet would be unforgivable. From the very beginning, there seems to be more to Adrien than we are being allowed to see. It seems obvious, yet isn't. The lensing by Pascal Marti is exceptional, pristine black-and-white with intermittent splashes of color hinting at hopes and memories and happier spaces. Philippe Rombi's original music is exquisite and companions the film to perfection. 

Yet, in reality, it is truly the performances of our two leads that drive all that unfolds in Frantz. Relative newcomer Paula Beer should unquestionably have filmmakers knocking on her door after her performance here, while Niney is perfectly suited to Ozon's tendency toward misdirection and multiple layers. Both are sublime together and masterfully keep us following wherever they wish to take us. 

There is a moral to the story in Frantz, though it may very well be a different moral for each moviegoer but Ozon manages to keep the film's emotional core even as he at times seems to be playing with our emotions. At times dark and at other times brimming with an optimism that seems unwarranted yet hoped for, Frantz is one of Francois Ozon's best pictures to date and one that I haven't stopped thinking about since I watched it. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic