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The Escort

Steve Robin Aubert Philippe Paul-Antoine Taillefer Jean-Mare Marie Cabana Nathalie Marie Lefebvrc Christian Patrice Coquereau Aline Louise Laprade

Steve Robin Aubert Philippe Paul-Antoine Taillefer Jean-Mare Marie Cabana Nathalie Marie Lefebvrc Christian Patrice Coquereau Aline Louise Laprade

Denis Langlois’ “The Escort” is an intermittently touching AIDS drama, made in the vein of “Parting Glances,” “Longtime Companion” and other, more recent “gay relationships” movies. Though proficiently produced and decently acted, meller doesn’t have enough gumption for theatrical distribution, but timely subject matter, and fact that it’s the directorial debut of a young Canadian filmmaker, should help gain entry into gay film fests.

As director and co-scripter, Langlois sets himself the ambitious goal of making a bittersweet serio-comedy of manners that’s meant to explore a whole web of friendship in the turbulent AIDS era. But muddled treatment of rather grave issues and frequent, unconvincing changes of tone result in a rambling film that’s only mildly engaging.

Longtime companions Jean-Marc (Eric Cabana) and Philippe (Paul-Antoine Taillefer) live a routine life, which is now devoid of passion or sexual excitement. Into their lives bursts a younger, handsome guy, Steve (Robin Aubert), hired by their friends as an escort, i.e. stripper, for a birthday party. Alone in the house, Jean-Marc has quickie with Steve. Later that night, attempting to replace a bulb, Steve gets into an accident that’s erroneously perceived as a suicide attempt.

Steve’s presence prompts an expected crisis in the rather stable relationship , with an easily seduced Philippe determined to pursue a new life with the escort. Not surprisingly, Steve turns out to be an emotionally distraught youngster who’s never had a long-term relationship, but confesses to have begun an affair with an HIV-positive man, whose identity he keeps secret.

The audience, of course, knows better and, predictably, the mystery man is none other than Christian (Patrice Coquereau), Philippe’s child-hood pal. The two buddies have been like brothers, except that Christian is unable to share with Philippe the terrible news about his health. Even less credible is the fact that Philippe has never seen or met Christian’s lover, Steve, even though it’s been going on for some time. (So much for close and intimate friendships.)

Meandering pic goes from one set of problems and relationships to an other, throwing into the melodramatic mix the obligatory character of a woman (Marie Lefebvre) who’s secretly in love with Philippe. There’s also intergenerational strife between Philippe and his recently separated mother, Aline (Louise Laprade), whose sole purpose is to insist that the younger generation today is more mature than the older one.

For a feature debut, pic is modestly enjoyable and pleasant to look at; most of the characters are attractive. However, in trying to accomplish too much for a 90-minute film, end result is a soap-opera that’s meant to pass as a catalog of gay life in the 1990s. “The Escort” may chart virgin territory in Quebec, but it has nothing new to add to the fast-growing literature of American or European gaythemed movies.

The Escort

(L'ESCORTE)(FRENCH-CANADIAN)

Production: A Castor & Pollux production. Executive producer, Bertrand Lachance. Directed by Denis Langlois, Screenplay, Langlois, Lachance.

Crew: Camera (color), Yves-Laurier Beaudoin; editors, Mei Yen Chan, Langlois; music, Bertrand Chenier; art direction, Pascale Deschenes; costume design, Claudine Robitaille; sound (Dolby), Louis Desparois; associate producer, Langlois; assistant director, Marie Cayer. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival, Sept. 12, 1996. Running time: 91 MIN.

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