Man at Bath sets out with pretensions of being an art-house film, but falls short entirely. Art is not necessarily signified by dodgy acting, an improvised script with occasional ponderous passages that hint at some depth, and a story so shoestring that is barely exists. This is a film that seems to revel in showing gay men being shallow.
The story, as much as there is one, is about arty ‘minceur’ (it’s probably French for mincer) Omar (Omar Ben Sellem) who needs to go to America to show people his film. His brute of a boyfriend, Emmanuel (François Sagat), rapes him, and Omar tells him to make sure he is gone by the time he gets back from America. This scenario could have been a powerful beginning, opening the film up to the lengths people will go to prove they aren’t in love – if not for some meek acting from one and a sort of blank, primal stare from the other. Omar can’t even muster rage for being raped, so he settles for bitchy comments whilst Emmanuel just looks a bit stressed out. By neutering what could have been a powerful opening scene, the premise of the film becomes not about them realising their love for each other but two dull characters meandering about until they do or don’t get back together. It’s hard to really care either way.
As the films progresses, Emmanuel and Omar proceed to have sex with a host of men, in order to get over their presumed breakup. It is clear that they both miss each other but the film doesn’t really delve much deeper into their actual feelings, apart from letting them stare into the middle distance endlessly. François Sagat is a porn actor of some experience, and this is his second non-porn film – though it might as well be his first, given his fairly vacant demeanour.
A major flaw in this film is that the characters are not in any way sympathetic and this denies the audience the possibility to care about what is happening. Simple scenes are eked out as if this immense sense of space in the film is a good thing when it really is not: this is 45 minutes of plot stretched into 75 minutes of film. Inexplicably, following a dull scene about left-wing politics which goes nowhere, the sound cuts out and about two minutes of ‘Come back home’ by Two Door Cinema Club plays. If you had the care to, you could argue that this is a note for Omar that he needs to leave New York and go back to his rapist boyfriend, but then a miserable French actress, played by Chiara Mastroianni, comes back into shot and the sight of her looking miserable puts any effort at analysis out of the window. Luckily, a few minutes later as nothing continues to happen, the track comes back on as Omar beds Dustin (Dustin Segura-Suarez).
It’s not all bad. There are attempts at sensuality and the sex scenes are shot with competence. Dustin, whom we meet in America, is quite the hottie, and you can see his engorged member during one of the sex scenes. Some of the camerawork is pretty good and the film hints at some deeper meaning but never really acts upon it. Overall, it is perplexing that people would put time and effort in something like this – a film which, for all its pretended sensuality, will surely leave the audience cold.
Man at Bath is available from Amazon.co.uk.