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The Witnesses - Les Témoins

Paris, 1984. In a cruisey city park, Adrien, a sophisticated, middle-aged doctor, meets Manu, a buoyant 18-year-old. Manu turns down Adrien’s proposition — then asks him to hold his jacket while he joins an orgy in the bushes.

The Witnesses - Les Témoins
France, 2007, 115 Minute Running Time
DIRECTOR: André Téchiné

Paris, 1984. In a cruisey city park, Adrien, a sophisticated, middle-aged doctor, meets Manu, a buoyant 18-year-old. Manu turns down Adrien’s proposition — then asks him to hold his jacket while he joins an orgy in the bushes. Not the best way to start a relationship, yet Adrien takes Manu under his wing. Manu needs guidance, and Adrien comes alive as he tromps around Paris with this energetic newcomer. Adrien’s friend Sarah worries that he’s being taken advantage of, but Adrien disagrees: “You can ask anything of your friends. ”

The possibilities of friendship are at the heart of this elegant new film from André Téchiné, whose 1994 Wild Reeds is already a classic. Once again, the French auteur demonstrates the complexity of desire — plus his knack for casting sexy, intense young French actors. In lesser hands, the May/December dynamic would slip into heartbreak and stop there, but Téchiné raises the stakes as The Witnesses becomes a story of relationships tested by the onslaught of AIDS.

Like a cinematic string quartet, the film intertwines four fascinating lives. Carefree Manu turns dangerous under pressure. Adrien, a doormat in love, becomes a medical warrior fighting the deadly new virus. Sarah struggles to balance motherhood with artistry, while her macho Algerian husband falls into his first gay affair. The Witnesses takes us through a tumultuous year asking us to bear witness to the lives it portrays. — K.M. SOEHNLEIN

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