Lagoon Cinema, starts Friday
Sex and chance brought them together one furtive summer night in the cruising grounds of a wooded Parisian park. Adrien (Michel Blanc), a doctor: bourgeois, middle-aged, on the prowl for boys. Manu (Johan Libéreau), a boy: beaming, freshly arrived in Paris, on the prowl for experience. Affectionate but chaste, Adrien and Manu become friends and soon depart for a holiday. Written and directed by André Téchiné, The Witnesses is a dance of opposites: old and young, gay and straight, light-skinned and dark, sickness and health. In the first of three sections, labeled "Summer 1984, Happy Days," Adrien introduces Manu to Sarah (Emmanuelle Béart)—writer of children's books and wife of Mehdi (Sami Bouajila), a Parisian cop of Muslim descent—over a weekend getaway at her beachfront cottage. Téchiné shines a hard, clear light on these characters' lives as shadows gather for chapter two, "Winter." An unexpected affair is followed by ominous symptoms of a strange new disease. The "witnesses" to what now becomes clear: Téchiné is using the full force of his imagination to reach back for a handle on the terrifying moment when the uninhibited world of gay men, and those who loved them, fell into the abyss of the AIDS crisis. A triumph of compassion and craft, Téchiné's testament shames American cinema's indifference to gay history.