Two hot-blooded heterosexuals decide to make an amateur gay porn film together — this time in French — in “Do Not Disturb,” star-helmer Yvan Attal’s Paris-set remake of Lynn Shelton’s “Humpday.” Though it sticks quite closely to the story outline of the semi-improvised mumblecore original, the new pic skews somewhat older and more inclusive, as Attal and co-scripter Olivier Bercot successfully expand the female roles and morph the male-anxiety-driven comedy into a dramedy about relationships. Francophone territories will eat this up, though Anglophone auds might be more hesitant to shell out for a film that also exists without subtitles.
Urban planner Ben (Attal) and his beautiful wife, Anna (Laetitia Casta, never better), are trying to conceive in a bid to complete their picture of suburban happiness. But their planned conception session is rudely disturbed by the arrival, in the middle of the night, of Jeff (Francois Cluzet), a vagabond friend of Ben’s from his art-school years. With a lot of catching up to do, Jeff takes Ben to a wild bohemian party organized by a bisexual artist friend, Monica (Asia Argento), and her g.f., Lilly (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Attal’s real-life partner), who’s just had a baby of uncertain paternity.
The way Attal fleshes out Anna and the lesbian couple’s notions of sexuality, and the role of sex in relationships, is one of the refreshing elements of “Do Not Disturb,” providing some counterweight to a tale that’s otherwise heavy on the kind of male machismo that’s meant to conceal insecurity. Though the men have big mouths and think they are more liberal than members of the opposite sex, Attal slyly suggests this is not necessarily the case.
As in “Humpday,” the two male leads get very drunk and end up agreeing to make a film together for an amateur porn festival, since seeing two straight guy friends have sex would be something innovative and new (the existence of armies of gay-for-pay performers is conveniently overlooked in both films).
Some chuckles if no real guffaws come from the scenes after the nightly pact, as each man tries to talk the other out of his decision by convincing him he’s a coward; both are too proud to simply admit they’d rather not do it. There’s also a smidgen of suspense surrounding Ben’s need to tell Anna about his little “art project” with his pal; Swiss lenser Thomas Hardmeier’s occasional zoom shots are especially effective here.
With Attal and Cluzet at least a good decade older than the original “Humpday” protags, the dynamics and priorities of the friends are somewhat different but no less credible, and the two performers are perfectly matched. The duo’s hotel-room showdown is actually more strongly rooted in their personalities and the gap that exists between their perceived convictions and gut feelings, making the sequence poignant and insightful as well as funny.
Though “Disturb” looks glossier than its grubby U.S. counterpart, this doesn’t mean Attal has sacrificed any of the authenticity needed to ground the story in a recognizable reality, with the notable exception of a beautifully poetic scene in which Jeff, Ben and a tough guy (Joeystarr, “Polisse”) sing Dalida’s version of “Parole Parole” together.
Tech contributions, too, are appropriate, with the work of production designer Thierry Francois and costume designer Nathalie Raoul suggesting the conflicting worlds of the bourgeois complacency of Ben and Anna’s home and the wild bohemian spirit of Lilly and Monica’s artists’ loft without going overboard, and with a beautiful eye for detail.