francois ozon's five favourite films that broke down gender identity
The films that inspired the French director’s new film on gender identity.
In Francois Ozon's latest film The New Girlfriend, France's leading man Romain Duris dons high heels and applies lipstick to play David/Virginia, a man who deals with the death of his wife by dressing in her clothing. The film is one of the prolific French filmmaker's richer works, playfully toying with themes of cross dressing, gender and sexuality and willing the audience to be as intrigued and enthusiastic as David-Virginia about his transformation.
The New Girlfriend takes on a similarly romantic fairytale sheen to Ozon fan favourite 8 Women, as his deceased wife's best friend Clare [played by Anais Demoustier] falls for David/Virginia, ultimately discovering something about her own identity. Ozon adapted the idea from a Ruth Rendell short story with inspiration from a documentary on transgendered people. Below, he talks through his inspirations for a cross dressing and gender questioning film.
Some Like it Hot
The films that inspired me for my film were ones where the character cross dressed not because it was his desire but because he is escaping something, like the mafia in Some Like it Hot. Or in Victor/Victoria it's because they are actors who have no work and have to pretend to be the other gender to find a job. This makes it easier to emphasize with the characters. I love the comedy in Some Like it Hot. The last line is the best in cinema: "Well, nobody's perfect!"'
In A Year of 13 Moons
'It's a Rainer Werner Fassbinder film [about a transsexual woman]. It's very dark and very realistic; about a man who decides to become a woman for the love of a man. But when the other man sees him as a woman, he rejects him. It's a very dark melodrama and it's a very strong film of Fassbinder. It's dark because the character is suffering and is rejected by everyone around him. It's closer to the reality for people in these situations [than The New Girlfriend]. It is a film without hope. Don't see it if you are feeling depressed."
Dressed to Kill
"This is a 1980 film by Brian De Palma. He plays with the idea of gender; it's a little bit kitsch to watch but there's a real pleasure there. It's an erotic thriller centred on a murder, in which Michael Caine cross dresses."
"Tootsie is the film in which you feel the pleasure of cross-dressing. It's the same for straight or gay people. It's something I wanted to bring across in The New Girlfriend, especially in the shopping scene [where David goes public as Virginia in the mall]."
"This is a documentary by Chantal Poupaud about transgender people, interesting in its exploration of the day-to-day rituals of transformation: plucking hair, applying make-up, using a cache for beards, etc. I got the idea for David's grieving in The New Girlfriend from a conversation with Chantal. She knew a man who began to cross dress after his wife's death. I thought it was a beautiful, tragic story with which to begin the film."
The New Girlfriend is out Friday 22 May.
Text Colin Crummy