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Garçon Stupide

How stupide is the Swiss garçon of Garçon Stupide? After yet another anonymous Internet hookup, he spots a book on Impressionism. Earlier that evening, he had a conversation in which his frequent roommate Natacha Koutchoumov used the word "Hitlerian." When he gets back to her apartment, he looks up the word "Impressionism." Then he has to find out who this Hitler fellow was. But that's what makes him uneducated, not what makes him stupid. What makes him stupid is his unwillingness to conceive of a life beyond bedding one man after another, taking money for it when he can, and writing emotional checks to Koutchoumov that his body's sexual orientation can't cash. Eventually, the film contends that educating himself might cure the stupidity with which he leads his life.

It takes him a while, however, which allows the film to engage in the kind of explicit Euro-sex scenes that make such titles an easy sell on the American arthouse circuit. So, yes, Chatagny has to do a lot of soul-searching. But he also has to take his clothes off a lot, so every potential audience member gets something out of the movie. The real struggle here isn't so much Chatagny's slow emergence into maturity as Lionel Baier's directorial struggle to balance artful and erotic elements. So the sex scenes go to split screens with shots from a natural-history museum, with Rachmaninoff accompaniment, and the self-discovery involves an obsession with a handsome Portuguese soccer star.

Again, everyone wins. Except they don't. Both the sex and the personal journey play out without much depth, leaving Chatagny a cipher even when he turns introspective. Even so, Baier has a keen sense of how to create a moody, foreboding look on digital video, and while his film contains few real surprises, it still suggests his nascent talent might turn into a real threat later on, assuming he does some artistic growing up of his own.

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