water drops on burning rocks(1999)
director: francois ozon
bernard giraudeau, malik zidi

. Itís fascinating to watch the Seventies go from a slightly amusing source of kitsch to a historical period in movies, to be researched and re-created as carefully and lovingly as the Jazz Age or Victorian England.

French director Francois Ozonís film of Water Drops on Burning Rocks is based on an unpublished play written by the 19-year old Rainer Werner Fassbinder, later to become the tortured leading light of German cinema in the Seventies and Eighties. Ozon re-creates Germany in the Seventies with a clinical, careful eye, but performs a French script with French actors, in a move as subtly off-putting as old WW2 films, where the Nazis are played by British actors with impeccable Oxbridge accents.

The plot is simple and stagebound -- Leopold, a seductive satyr of a businessman, picks up Franz, a formless, confused young man. He moves into the older manís teak-and-shag apartment, and in short order theyíre driving each other crazy, having managed to assume the nagging emotional dynamic of an old married couple. Without warning, their old girlfriends suddenly arrive at the apartment, and Leopoldís truly evil, corrupting character emerges.

While the performances are excellent, the script is hokey and grasps vainly -- especially at the climax -- for shocking or vivid images. The tone of sophomoric despair is unmistakeably that of a young man, and while the play might have shocked an audience in the Seventies, today itís as quaint, even comforting, as a swingerís magazine, or glam rock.