Daniel is an layabout construction worker, without a house or a steady job, or, apparently, a comb. He spends his time trying to get away from people, sulking and feeling sorry for himself. He is insecure about the fact that his career-woman girlfriend, Sonia, won't commit to him, but it's not like he's ever introduced her to his best friend, Thomas, or to his brother. And now he's being stalked by a man who claims he loves him, and alternates between kicking him into the street and having a familial chat over a cigarette. Yes, Daniel is a shiftless, emotional mess. Often intensely dislikeable, and yet, in Patrice Chereau's new film, ultimately sympathetic.
The movie is an intimate portrait of a man who has great difficulty with intimate relationships. The most painful moments are conversations with his girlfriends - they feel like negotiations over the terms of engagement. The most awkward, but also the most weirdly touching, are with the stalker. The resulting film is well-acted, well-written, and compelling. Romain Duris and Charlotte Gainsbourg are impressive as the couple, and Jean-Hughes Anglade does well in a difficult smaller role as the stalker.
But I found myself a little disappointed in PERSECUTION. Maybe I am being unfair in holding it up against his other films, which almost uniformly set a very high benchmark. Where, given the subject matter of sexual obsession, is the sexual tension of the marvelous LA REINE MARGOT? Where, given, the deep crisis in the central relationship, is the brutality of Chereau's best and most recent film, GABRIELLE? Certainly, PERSECUTION is a good film, but it is not a film I need to see again.
PERSECUTION played Venice 2009 and will be released in France on December 9th.