EASTERN BOYS (Robin Campillo, 2013)
Walter Reade Theater, Film Society of Lincoln Center
165 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Aves.
Saturday, August 4, 4:45
Festival runs through August 9
Robin Campillo takes a genuinely compassionate look at immigration, home invasion, and sexual obsession in the compelling, always surprising Eastern Boys. Seeking out companionship, middle-aged Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin) spots young Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) and cruises him at the Gare du Nord station in Paris. They set up a paid rendezvous at Daniel’s apartment for the next day, but Marek’s arrival is preceded by that of his primarily male friends from Eastern Europe, illegal immigrants who begin taking things from Daniel’s place as they dance and drink; it’s a heartbreaking party scene, with Daniel not knowing how to react, an implicit if not overt threat to his physical well-being hovering over the thick atmosphere. But when Marek eventually does show up, Daniel is desperate for his attention, still determined to be alone with him, an attraction that has dangerous consequences.
Employing a cinéma vérité style with Jeanne Lapoirie as cinematographer, writer, director, and editor Campillo, whose previous, debut feature was 2004’s Les Revenants and has written several films with Laurent Cantet, including The Class and Heading South, tells the intimate story of Daniel and Marek’s complicated relationship with grace and subtlety as they both balance fear with desire, knowing that the unpredictable and violent Boss (Danil Vorobyev), the leader of the gang, is lurking around them. The opening scene has a documentary, neo-Realist quality, but it’s all fiction, the characters portrayed by actors. Campillo divides the film into four chapters based on location and thematic elements, with the home invasion set in his own apartment so he could feel like he himself was being invaded while making it. Nominated for three César Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, and Emelyanov as Most Promising Actor) Eastern Boys goes from a dark romance to a gripping thriller in the final section, but Campillo never reverts to purely good and evil characters, and he provides no straightforward answers, especially in the open-ended finale, while raising important questions about society. It’s a deeply affecting film, one that seeps into your system, an often uncomfortable experience that mirrors Daniel’s fascination with Marek; you’ll squirm in your seat, but you won’t be able to turn away. Eastern Boys is screening August 4 at 4:45 in the Film Society of Lincoln Center series “The Female Gaze,” consisting of nearly three dozen works shot by women, investigating whether they bring something different to cinematic storytelling. The series continues through August 9 with such other films as Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, photographed by Rachel Morrison; Bertrand Bonello’s House of Tolerance, photographed by Josée Deshaies; Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park, photographed by Rain Li; and Todd Haynes’s Velvet Goldmine, photographed by Maryse Alberti.