Lorent (Tahir Rahim) is an actor currently performing the role of legendary seducer Don Juan in a play. However, when his fiancée, Julie (Virginie Epira), jilts him, Lorent cannot seem to understand why his character is romantically successful while he loses the love of his life. He therefore decides to embody the dramatic passion of Don Juan to make Romantic – and sometimes musical – declarations of love to women he meets on the street. Of course, these women don’t take kindly to Lorent’s advances, and he’s rejected time and time again. In Don Juan, director Serge Bozon puts this question under the microscope as Lorent asks himself if art can mimic life.
As the actor comes to grips with his situation and begins to grapple with these questions, the film begins life as a strangely funny and thoughtful examination on love and relationships. Seeing the lovesick Lorent burst into grand orchestral songs to strangers he’s just met (the camera focused on his stiff performance the entire time) carries an awkward and darkly comedic charm that makes it impossible to look away. And as absurd as these sections are, they nevertheless serve the purpose of expressing Lorent’s thoughts and emotions as if he were in a real musical.
Unfortunately, Don Juan overcomplicates what should have been a simple, yet effective premise. At around the halfway mark, Julie re-enters the picture when she stars opposite Lorent in the same play. Their spark is reignited, though it may just be their characters’ feelings for each other bleeding into reality. The protagonist’s songs now become duets, and the pair’s bond is stronger than ever – or at least that’s what they say. From here in, Bozon widens the scope of his examination, questioning whether love can be extraordinary or if it’s as simply as ordinary as those who claim to be in it.
However, the filmmaker doesn’t stop there; the script proceeds to fly off the handle as it approaches its conclusion. The stiffness of the songs becomes less comedic and more annoying the longer they go on. By the time audiences make it to the end, this script has entered the territory of maddening lunacy that’s so far detached from its initial premise that it’s like a different film. If there was a spark of genius in Don Juan, it’s long gone by the time the curtain goes down.
Don Juan does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
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Watch the trailer for Don Juan here: