Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Wolfe Video
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (10th May 2017).
The Film

Teddy Audience Award: Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (won) - Berlin International Film Festival, 2016
Audience Choice (Best Narrative Feature): Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (won) - Boston LGBT Film Festival, 2016
Silver Q Hugo Award (Best Feature): Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (won) - Chicago International Film Festival, 2016
FilmOut Festival Award (Best Actor): Geoffrey Couët and François Nambot (won) and (Best International Feature): Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (won) - FilmOut San Diego, 2016
Prix du Public (Best Feature-Length Film): Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (won) and Esperluette Award (Best Feature-Length Film): Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (nominated) - Rencontres In&Out, 2016

Across a sea of pornstachioed French men in a sweltering neon-lit sex club, shy intern Théo (Geoffrey Couët) experiences lust at first sight for similarly youthful and less hirsute notary assistant Hugo (Sex, Love & Therapy's François Nambot). After getting dressed and stepping out into the night air, the two rent bicycles and ride through the empty street of Paris after midnight on their way to the Metro. As Hugo muses on the momentous nature of their encounter – not "making" so much as "producing love" as a "big contribution to world peace" – Théo lets slip that it was his first time having casual sex, having previously had a boyfriend and never having to bother with practicalities like protection. A suddenly horrified Hugo castigates Théo for his naivety about sex clubs and having unprotected sex since he himself is HIV+. Romance goes out the window as Hugo makes an appointment on the AIDS hotline for Théo at a nearby hospital to be tested and go on a treatment regimen to stop the virus from spreading. They part ways with Hugo incensed and Théo afraid, but Hugo turns up at the hospital to provide support as he is provided with medication and an appointment the following Monday for a screening. Leaving the hospital, they alternately comfort and repudiate each other for their roles (actual and imagined) in the slip-up. Encounters with others throughout the night, a homophobic hospital malingerer (American-born university lecturer-turned-actor Jeffry Kaplow from A Mighty Heart), a Syrian kabob seller (Georges Daaboul), and an elderly chambermaid (Marief Guittier) respectively, color their perspectives on loneliness, the endless possibilities of youth, and reconciling with the life one has made while busy living it.

Compared to Weekend and Shortbus in the promotional materials for its incorporation of hardcore sex between extras as well as Before Sunrise more so than more recent French contemporary Stranger by the Lake , the cumbersomely-titled Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo (or the more literal translation from the French "Théo & Hugo in the Same Boat") – from writing/directing couple Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (Côte d'Azur) – begins with an orgy in the backroom of a sex club that runs for a nearly twenty minutes that manages to make explicit sex boring. Over the subsequent eighty minutes, however, viewer will come to realize that all the talk is not a concession to the actors and the opening sequence the film's raison d'être as Couët and Nambot prove to be more than meat puppets. Even if one has a hard time getting past the didactic consequences of unprotected sex and AIDS statistics exposition shoehorned into the dialogue a little inorganically even when it is germane to the discussion (not to mention the "these things happen" dismissal), there is much to puzzle over whether architecture intern Théo's desire to do international aide work and Hugo's insistence that something ineffable between them caused him to let his guard down are reactions to the situation or if they are genuinely opening up to each other about the lives they want and see as being possible to realize with one another. Presented in real time with the 05:59 as a major decisive moment, time does fly with this eponymous duo (who are not exactly Céline et Julie vont en bateau) as they fall in love in a most unconventional way in the world's most romantic city.
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Video

Wolfe Video's second Blu-ray release - following 2015's fifteenth anniversary edition of their flagship title Big Eden - has a better digital master to work with than the earlier film, and the BD25 1080p24 MPEG-4 2.40:1 widescreen encode of this HD production looks well-detailed under normal lighting situations (with the neon reds and blues of the opening sequence sometimes solarizing in the highlights) with a nice sense of depth in the shots of Paris at night as the wide-angled Steadicam trails the two protagonists. The film is not available on physical media in the UK as of yet, but it is available in streaming formats from Peccadillo Pictures in a seemingly uncut PAL-speed transfer.
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Audio

Wolfe provide lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 stereo tracks, with the former more enveloping during the opening sequence in which pulsing music, grunts, and groans are a sensory experience while the surrounds are more conservatively utilized throughout the rest of the film with its emphasis on dialogue taking place in largely empty streets at night. As with a number of Wolfe's DVDs of foregin titles, the English subtitles are burnt-in to the image.
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Extras

Other than the theatrical trailer (1:19) and a few previews, the only extra is the short film "The Glory Hole" (3:50) by Daniel Maggio in which Jeff Foote and Cosgrove Vincent Norstadt - the first gay couple to be married in California after the passage of Prop. 8 - recall how they met twenty-two years ago at the San Francisco Glory Hole. The story is played for sweetness rather than titillation with a glimpsed erection in flashback deployed for comic effect. Regrettably, there is no interview with the directors who did an English-language interview at the BFI Flare LGBT film festival.
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Overall

Opening with an orgy in the backroom of a sex club that runs for a nearly twenty minutes that manages to make explicit sex boring, time nevertheless does fly with the eponymous duo of Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo as they fall in love in a most unconventional way in the world's most romantic city.

 


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