Three brothers whose mother has recently died explore the sometimes awkward, sometimes dangerous business of what it means to be a man in “The Clan.” Third pic — after “Full Speed” and “Under Another Sky” — helmed by openly gay thesp Gael Morel (“Wild Reeds”) is a female-free zone except for five minutes at start and finish. Full frontal male nudity and a marked preference for hairless muscular flesh make gay fests the primary offshore destination for this emotionally punishing pic, which is saved from terminal pretentiousness by bursts of powerful, unexpected imagery.
Three distinct segs (of 30, 40 and 18 minutes) are named after the three brothers. Marc (Nicolas Cazale), a perfect physical specimen, age 22, is a tightly-coiled rebel. His fury is impossible to channel once his admired older brother, Christophe (Stephane Rideau), gets out of prison but refuses to help him avenge a terrible injustice at the hands of local toughs.
Christophe lands a job at a factory that salts hams. The tedium of an assembly line is as well-lensed as the muscles, gleaming torsos, crotches and butts on which the camera constantly dotes. Meanwhile, the third brother, Olivier (Thomas Dumerchez), 17, admires his confreres but chafes at home. He’s attracted to 21-year-old Hicham (Salim Kechiouche).
Pic is one of the more unabashed filmic appreciations of male beauty since — well, since Wolfgang Petersen aimed a camera at Brad Pitt — and Morel excels at exploring the raw, pointless energy of bored young men. Mountain scenery near Annecy emphasizes how easy it is to lead a constricted life in proximity to wide open spaces.