The film opens with a young ethereal couple Ali and Matthias (Kate Moran and Niels Schneider) preparing for the evening ahead as their transvestite maid/sexual surrogate Udo (Nicolas Maury) is putting together the finishing touches to a house party. Slowly their guests arrive (including one Eric Cantona) all varying in age and gender but connected by their exaggerated sexual archetypes (they go by distilled monikers like The Teen and The Stud). The visitors and hosts then begin to reveal their sexual misadventures, ranging from a supernatural-like reanimation pact between two lovers, to an oedipal flirtation gone awry.
If the three lead character’s deep-coloured, theatrical-like apartment looks like the results of a confab between David Lynch and Pedro Almodóvar, Gonzalez’s film is far from a pick ‘n’ mix homage. You and the Night runs on its own unique intangible logic, slipping into dreamlike interludes which conjure up wonderful bursts of garish religious kitsch and playful Freudian symbolism as each member of the group recount their tales. The odd but welcoming sight of Cantona adds a further surreal touch and he plays it admirably straight with his huge (presumably prosthetic) penis swinging around for the guests to gape at (this also elicits the film’s funniest moment).
Xavier Dolan regular and star of 2012’s little seen but terrific Atomic Age, Schneider has the chiselled classic Greek looks which more than adequately carry him through the role of tragic hero, while his on-screen lover Moran oozes the kind of natural magnetism found in the iconic actresses from her French cinematic lineage. A brief appearance by Béatrice Dalle is a nice nod to the role which catapulted her to stardom in the similarly boundary-pushing Betty Blue, but her inclusion here can’t help but position Gonzalez alongside the other idiosyncratic filmmakers she’s collaborated with in the past, such as Jim Jarmusch, Abel Ferrara and Claire Denis.
Like the character’s fluid approach towards sexual orientation, You and the Night defies being categorised as solely for a LGBT audience, but the film’s abstract narrative and transgressive sprinkles still means that it will probably find more of an appreciation with a niche audience. Here’s hoping it does manage some kind of breakthrough as Gonzalez’s lyricism, buoyed by a shimmering M83 score (the band is fronted by the director’s brother, Anthony) is really enchanting and marks him out as a distinctive cinematic voice. It will be exciting to see what he does next.