REVIEW: Les îles [Islands] [2018]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★


Rating: NR | Runtime: 23 minutes | Release Date: August 15th, 2018 (France)
Studio: UFO Distribution / Altered Innocence
Director(s): Yann Gonzalez
Writer(s): Yann Gonzalez

“Tell me you want me”

Winner of the Queer Palm at Cannes 2017 for short film, Yann Gonzalez‘s Les îles [Islands] delivers eroticism in many forms. From one scene of intimacy to the next, he lets his camera follow characters into the throes of sex before pulling out to show how one’s pleasures are another’s performance. A man (Alphonse Maîtrepierre) and woman (Mathilde Mennetrier) in bed are ruled by lust and ultimately revealed to be a horror trope of innocence lost for a monster (Romain Merle) to interrupt. His skin-less face of red muscle doesn’t have to be a nightmare, though, if he suddenly becomes what she craves alongside her original partner—one person’s fears becoming another’s fantasized desires. And when all have reached climax, the audience can stand and clap.

What about them now? What about Simon (Simon Thiébaut) and Nassim (Thomas Ducasse), walking home with those images of love rendering them helpless to their own needs? The scenario changes from heterosexual pairing to polyamory, from cause to effect, and ultimately a homosexual encounter towards the voyeuristic want of companionship only achieved via self-care and imagination. Is one better than the last? Is one more normal? Or is that release of satisfaction identical no matter what shape, size, or gender it takes? This circle sees no bigotry and possesses no end as that first romantic moment transforms into the inspiration Circé (Sarah-Megan Allouch) uses to overcome her loneliness and fears. She can wear her headphones, retreat into a world without judgment, and be content in melancholy.

Gonzalez literally creates this world on a stage as score and grain lend softness to the whole to allow its unbridled sensuality the freedom to fold conflict into passion. Monsters become human in their submission to pleasure, decency becomes redefined once a public act of illicit sex is embraced rather than rejected, and one woman takes it to wield memory, dream, and recording and relive the electricity of the moment in order to capture it for herself. These characters are private islands connected by their hunger for arousal and appreciation of love, each watching from unique perspectives and letting the familiar thrill of the others be distilled to its purest form devoid of prejudice. Sex becomes sex. Desire becomes desire. And those many forms are all rendered equal.

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