ND/NF: tracking the erotic meaderings of European road movie Give Me Your Hand
Summarizing the plot of film director/animator Pascal-Alex Vincent’s Give Me Your Hand (2008) tells the potential viewer both everything and nothing about this remarkable film: A pair of young, dark, brooding, fantastically handsome identical (monozygotic) twins, Antoine and Quentin, hitchhike across Europe from France to Spain to attend the funeral of the mother they never met. On the way, the two get caught up in a number picaresque side-adventures, particularly sexual encounters—individually, simultaneously, or in tandem—with other lost, seeking people-of-the-road.
Describing the film like this makes it sound like a sexual fantasy. Well, this label—like my skimpy, too-literal logline plot—is both technically accurate and qualitatively insufficient to engage the distinctive, deeply resonant experience Vincent offers. Yes, the film is incredibly sexy and erotic, from the perspective of a number of different sexual orientations, but does this mean this film is nothing more than “high-(t)art”?
With horror films, a reviewer has an easier time pointing to the crafting of mood and setting, the evocation of the uncanny, sensations of dread/fear/menace, and the visceral experience of engaging with the unknown as positive achievements by the filmmakers at a technical level: these are difficult effects to make linger with the audience beyond the boundaries of the screening. In fact, in the best cases (like Wise’s The Haunting (1963) and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Seance (2000)) these elements become themselves strong reasons to admire and evangelize the film. Baroque variations of plot are not the only way we love a movie.
With Give Me Your Hand (2008), Vincent perfume-composes a new genre by sifting in twin/road movie (primary scents) with youth-on-the-run, story of siblings, and post adolescent sexual awakening (modifiers) and the erotic, uncanny, and metaphysical (blenders). You don’t worry too much about the existence of ghosts in the real world when watching a ghost story: you think about what makes ghosts tick in this context. Likewise, you don’t doubt that Antoine and Quentin’s journey will continue to become stranger and stranger, and the probability for sexual activity with strangers is at least a bit higher than it might be in the real world. (Though, I’ll admit that part of the fun of the film is wondering if the glances the film reveals of characters gazing at/desire the leads might not spill over into the real world for two such attractive real-world rarest-of-rare monozygotic males.)
What Vincent gains access to with all of this visceral, juices-churning irreality is the creative potential space to imagine his way into compelling questions about brothers and twins that I haven’t seen elsewhere. Unlike something like Twins (1988), and arguably Dead Ringers (1988) (my primary notion of a twin movie before including this one), Vincent does not divide a single human personality into fractions, but instead grapples with the ineffable question confronting all of us not part of a monozygotic twin pair: what does it mean for two complete humans to resemble/share so many external elements in common, and yet also maintain their individual agency? Vincent considers ways in which their private, unspoken, almost too-intense intimacy is as frequently the cue for violent aggression for each other as it is for support and care. How will time and experience and desire effect the evolution of their relationship?
–Matthew GriffinNew Directors/New Films, New Voices, on @ the walter reade, what's on comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.