Before I Forget (Avant que j'oublie)

Robin Clifford 
Before I Forget (Avant que j'oublie)
Laura Clifford 
An aging gay Parisian, Pierre Pruez (writer-director-star Jacques Nolot), is having coping problems with life. A writer suffering from writer’s block, an ex-gigolo who has had to cope for years with being HIV-positive and, in his waning years, ever mindful of money and his finances, Pierre has taken on a cynical acceptance of life and what it had dealt him in “Before I Forget.”

Multi-hyphenate Nolot evinces a thoughtful, introspective character study of a man on the fringe of mainstream society. Pierre is no longer the trick in the gay sex world and has long been a client to the young hustlers plying the trade. For the aged queen, he eats alone, talks about his problems to his dwindling number of friends and his shrink (three times a week) and has a series of one-hour stands with the now much younger gigolos.

Besides the nicely developed character study, using Pierre as the representative of the small, aging gay society centered in Paris, there are also several social issues brought forth by writer Nolot. One has the main character going to the hospital for the treatment of his HIV and being presented with a bill for 300000 euros ­ being on the fringe means no health care, which is only for the mainstream population of France. Another has Pierre talking on the phone with a friend about the many and serious side effects of the HIV-treating drugs ­ the cure could kill the patient. Nolot deals with growing old on the fringe and pulls no punches.

Nolot, in his actor’s hat, creates a melancholy, often-sad character that I grew to have a great deal of empathy for Pierre. His is an aging, reflective man, albeit gay, that I can identify with ­ except for the sex. You get to know him and those around him and the lonely, isolated lives they have grown used to. The supporting cast does a fine job in helping create Pierre’s world. Techs are splendid, particularly the excellent use shadow and light by cinematographer Josee Deshaies.

This has been a good year for the French film biz and Before I Forget” continues the string of fine works. This is the kind of storytelling and acting that should have a mature, universal appeal for discerning filmgoers and renters. I give it an A-.

This distinctly melancholy portrait of a sixty-year-old gay man coping with age and economic uncertainty is an outstanding work by writer/director/star Jacques Nolot ("Under the Sand"), whose elegant, polished exterior hides an increasingly debauched and diseased body.  Pierre Pruez spends his days smoking, trying to write, hiring gigolos and visiting old friends, many of whom, like his lawyer Georges (Jean Pommier), are tired of listening to him complain.  Pierre is taken aback by younger man Marc's (Bastien d'Asnières) desire to take him to a club turned out 'like a handbag queen,' and relates this story to friends as he also looks back to the days when he was a Marc to his long time benefactor.  But his $15 million franc inheritance has been swept out from under him by his lover's family.  Pierre tells lunch partner Paul (Marc Rioufol, "48 Hours a Day"), a man whose fortunes are the exact opposite of his own, about how he was too naive to protect himself and his lover too careless to file his will with a lawyer and relates breaking into the man's home to get what little he could.  Later, in an auction house, an entire life's memories are laid out as merchandise he cannot afford to buy.  Three times a week he talks to his shrink (David Kessler) and he wrestles with the drugs provided to treat AIDS, most with side effects he considers worse than the disease.  He frequently talks of suicide.  In the end he chooses life - or does he?  With great dignity in lace, a black wig and heels, Pierre smokes a cigarette, Nolot having us observe the entire time, before walking slowly into a black void.

Nolot and his cinematographer Josée Deshaies ("Heartbeat Detector") use chiaroscuro lighting to great effect throughout the film.  The visuals are stunning, as is the use of music.  Like many recent French films, Nolot's script deals with many social issues.  Pierre, being a gay man outside of the usual working world, has more challenges than most, especially when it comes to health care.

The character of Pierre Pruez has appeared in four previous films - at 17 and 30 in Andre Techines' "I Don't Kiss" and "La Matiouette" and at 50 and 55 in Nolot's own "The Hinterland" and "Porn Theater." But you don't have to have seen any of these films to appreciate the sixty year old version. "Before I Forget" is unforgettable.


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