Homme au bain | Man at Bath
DIRECTOR: Christophe Honoré | WRITER: Christophe Honoré | CAST: François Sagat, Omar Ben Sellem, Dustin Segura-Suarez, Chiara Mastroianni, Rabah Zahi, Kate Moran, Dennis Cooper | France
I think my mostly negative reaction to Christophe Honoré’s Homme au bain is based on the fact that I find the lead actor, François Sagat, physically repellent. This speaks either to my shallowness or to the film’s, since the film is almost predicated on the assumption that Sagat — apparently a wildly popular performer in gay porn — is some kind of irresistible sex god. What I see instead is a short, squat man with stubby legs whose muscles have been inflated to Michelin Man proportions; he also sports a bizarrely tattooed scalp and grimaces a lot. The more his nude body was put on display — and it was on display seemingly all the time — the less willing I was to engage with the film. Not that I think there’s a whole lot to the film when you get down to it anyway.
Sagat plays Emmanuel, a Parisian with no obvious means of support — he appears to be a casual prostitute, is possibly a painter, has friends in the theater — whose boyfriend Omar, a filmmaker of some sort, tells him at the beginning of the movie that he wants Emmanuel out of the apartment by the time he returns from a quick trip to New York with an actress friend of his. The rest of the film follows Emmanuel in Paris as he attempts to earn a little money from a regular john, has a threeway with two guys in his apartment building, picks up a trick for mildly kinky sex, gets involved in an odd almost-threeway with a friend of his and her boyfriend, picks up and has sex with the guy his john has recently been sleeping with, all intercut with the handheld video shot by Omar in New York as he accompanies his friend to the lecture/screening of her movie where he picks up a scruffy young artsy type who’s in town from Montreal and with whom he spends the next couple of days. Not a whole lot happens. Over and over and over.
I was mildly diverted by Dennis Cooper as the john, an American expat art collector named Robin who rather insultingly turns down the chance to pay for sex with Emmanuel. Robin compares Emmanuel unfavorably to the art he also buys for pleasure, dismissing him as artificial and kitsch but offering to pay him to beat the shit out of a sweet, innocent young man he (Robin) has recently taken up with; this is supposed to be jaded transgressiveness or something, I suppose, to go along with the hazy Nietzschean claptrap Robin spouts. If I’m going to be honest, however, the only real reason I watched Homme au bain to the end was because I thought the actor who played Omar’s New York trick, Dustin Segura-Suarez, was really hot and I kept hoping he’d be given yet more nude scenes. See? I am shallow after all. But here’s a link to a blog post that attempts to take the movie seriously; tellingly, the guy who wrote it does think that François Sagat is a sex god.