August 21, 2023

CINEMA | 'Passages' Entangles A Destructive Love Triangle

"She excites me."
Franz Rogowski Ben Whishaw Ira Sachs | Passages Mubi
Mubi / Mongrel Media
Tennessee-born independent filmmaker Ira Sachs directs a sexy French queer romantic drama about the messy beginnings and endings of modern relationships. Passages exquisitely dramatizes the passionate highs and maddening lows of two on-again, off-again toxic romances through a refreshing pansexual lens.

Disarming German actor Franz Rogowski and Brit Ben Whishaw star as a long-time same-sex couple, an egomaniacal tyrant of a film director Tomas and his soft-spoken graphic artist husband Martin, who get entangled with Parisian school teacher Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos) when the former starts a impulsive sexual affair with her after wrapping a tenuous film shoot. The trio goes back and forth, getting further entrenched in a series of increasingly melodramatic trists that show off Tomas' truly self-involved sense of narcissistic destructiveness.

Rogowski, Whishaw, and Exarchopoulous have wonderful chemistry, with their separate extended sex scenes coming off as passionate and intimate. There's a charged energy to the performances as we feel both the tortured history and excitement of something new between the two different romantic pairings. Everything revolves around the brooding Rogowski's crooked-nosed Tomas' strange sense of sexual appeal as he, through a force of nature sense of scoundrel, earnestly manipulates others to his wants and desires of the moment.

As a scintillating relationship drama of complex emotional entanglements, Passages' self-destructive queer love triangle unfolds sublimely on and around the busy streets of Paris. Sachs' assured eye and unsparing direction enhance the naturalistic performances of his three central actors, who give such emotionally honest portrayals in every scene. It's both steamy and chaotic.

Passages screens at the VIFF Centre and will be available to stream on Mubi starting October 6th.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Moveable Fest / Stir

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