Monday, December 16, 2019


On the basis of his Synonymes, one may assume that the Israeli director Nadav Lapid attended Godard university. Certainly the handheld camera bobbing its way along Parisian streets recalls Breathless. Then there's the desultory and fragmented plot and the meditation on words a la the film's title which also pays homage to a slew of Godard films including Goodbye to Language. Finally it’s politics and sex. In Synonymesthe central figure Yoav (Tom Mercier) is an Israeli exile living in Paris. There are vague intimations of military prowess and some kind of psychic break with the net result being a repudiation of his homeland. As for sex, the movie turns Godard’s fascination with undressing and in some cases humiliating women on its head.  Here we have a male character who mysteriously finds himself naked in an empty apartment, eventually succumbing to hypothermia. Perhaps symbolically he’s taken in by two scions of the French bourgeoisie Emilie (Quentin Dolmaire), the writer son of a French industrialist and his girlfriend Caroline (Louise Chevillotte), an oboist. In order to subsist, and this is right out of the Godard playbook (with all the master's signature provocation and showboating), Yoav becomes an actor in a gay porn video. In it he’s told to stick his finger in his anus and say “I finger myself and it feels good.” He’s unable to comply when his tormentor directs him to repeat the same sentence in Hebrew. The question is what's going on? Why and how does Yoav find himself in an empty apartment, relieved of his clothes? And what’s any of this trying to say. There are mysterious flashbacks to Yoav’s career as a soldier, but any of the validity of his disaffection is removed by his obvious mental instability. And what about the fascination with the male genitalia? The movie which is for the most part incomprehensible, does have a unique characteristic in the way it gives full expression to the female gaze. Synonymes’s one contribution to cinema might be that it makes up for decades in which women actresses were unfairly the only ones who had to take their clothes off in front of the camera.

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