DVD Review - Man at Bath

Homme au bain was written and directed by Christophe Honoré, which premiered in France in September 2010. TLA Video made it available in the United States in August 2014. It's set in Gennevilliers, a neighborhood in the northwest suburbs of Paris. It was inspired by the painting of the same name by Gustave Caillebotte, a French impressionist who in 1894 created a canvas of a naked man, seen from behind as he dries himself with a towel, the towel pressed against his back, his wet bare bottom exposed with soaked footsteps leading to his tub.

Honoré hired as the titular "man," François Sagat, an internationally famous, French porn star, known for his head tattoo and perfectly sculpted body. Honoré is perhaps more demanding of Sagat as an actor than in his porn films, but he still doesn't give Sagat a lot of dialogue. He's still mostly a silent, sexual object, which may or may not have been the point of Caillebotte's original canvas. However, oddly, at no point in this film do we ever see Sagat in or coming out of a bath.

One of the DVD cover photos is a recreation of Caillebotte's canvas using Sagat, but at no point is this image in the actual movie. Honoré nods to the French impressionist in other ways like for example making Sagat's character an artist, a painter at that. The final act we see Sagat doing is painting on an apartment wall. Beyond that, the title makes no sense.

François Sagat stars as Emmanuel, a so-called artist and possible hustler or rent boy. He's seen going upstairs to an American who lives above him in the same building. He's then seen disrobing for that American until he's totally nude wanting that American's cash. He's seen getting paid for sex or sexual objectification only this once. The American completely degrades him, but we never get how this effects Emmanuel or what his possible prostitution meant to him at all, other than a way of buying groceries.

Emmanuel isn't the first character seen nor the last. Arguably, the protagonist is also Omar Ben Sellem who plays Omar, the boyfriend or love interest of Emmanuel. Omar is seen using his Sony video camera. He packs his luggage to head to New York City in order to accompany his friend, a woman who is a filmmaker and document her time at a film festival there. Crazily, before leaving, he's practically raped by Emmanuel.

However, this rape is never mentioned again. It prompts Omar to break up with Emmanuel and insist Emmanuel be gone when Omar returns. Yet, there's no exploration of Emmanuel's feelings, guilt or otherwise, about the possible rape. Omar's feelings about it are never addressed. Omar isn't even seen mainly after the rape. His point-of-view is shown, but it's found-footage-style with Omar holding the camera constantly.

Homme au bain by Gustave Caillebotte
Honoré merely shows a series of random sexual encounters that Emmanuel and Omar have while away from each other. With each encounter, the potential exists for delving into each character and the opening of eyes to certain situations and dynamics. Yet, that potential is wasted for slight titillation.

For example, a friend of Emmanuel reads an online article about pedophilia, while Emmanuel has sex with Ronald, someone significantly younger than him only a few feet away and in full view and earshot of that friend. Later, Emmanuel takes another significantly younger, sexual partner named Rabah and spanks him in somewhat brutal fashion, but there is no seemingly connective tissue. What does he do it for?

Meanwhile, Omar hooks up with a French Canadian named Dustin while in New York, as well as watches Dustin have sex with his female friend, and there's no sense of Omar's emotional reaction. It makes the ending, which is Omar's return, false and hollow.

Two Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains full frontal nudity and graphic sex.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 9 mins.


Popular Posts