François Ozon’s PETER VON KANT—a genuflection and almost-camp homage—is a loose adaptation of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Gender-switched to accommodate a more realistic portrayal of the German director’s obsession with actor Günther Kaufmann, PETER stars Denis Ménochet as the Fassbinder stand-in—the booze, the coke, the hectic workload intact—and Isabelle Adjani as his best frenemy Sidonie. Paying a visit to Peter’s Cologne apartment, Sidonie invites young, would-be actor Amir Ben Salem (Khalil Gharbia) to join her. Instant infatuation occurs, and Amir is willing to let his director devour him like a ripe peach as long as it leads to a role.
With Gharbia in the viewfinder, Ozon leans—not hard enough—into soft-core porn as the camera roams the young man’s face and physique. But, like its source, there’s a full course of philosophizing as Peter, Amir, and Sidone manipulate and deceive for position. Promises of trust and humility soon give way to another round of recriminations. (Karl, played by Stefan Crepon, is the fourth side of this domestic rectangle. He’s Peter’s stylish and slavishly devoted majordomo and remains absolutely mute throughout the film.)
In the third act, Fassbinder star Hanna Schygulla makes a cameo appearance and everything, of course, ends in tears. Fortunately, on their very first night together, Peter shot a screen test of Amir. Alone is his apartment, this home movie of delectable features provides a living memory and a prison of endless return.
See theater links below for screening info.
PETER VON KANT
Written and directed by François Ozon
Through September 15
11523 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Los Angeles
323 Sixth Avenue (at 3rd Street), New York City
Played September 2 through 8:
1822 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles
207 North Maryland Avenue, Glendale
François Ozon, Peter von Kant (2022), from top: Denis Ménochet (left) and Khalil Gharbia; Isabelle Adjani and Ménochet; Peter von Kant French poster; Stefan Crepon (left) and Ménochet; Gharbia and Ménochet. Images courtesy and © Foz, C. Bethuel, and Strand Releasing.