Inside Out 2016 Review: Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo
What immediately catches everyone’s attention about Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo is of course its on-screen depiction of sex. Opening with an unsimulated 18-minute orgy scene in a gay sex club, the film makes a bold and provocative statement about modern gay life. The content never crosses the line of being exploitative or pornographic but it’s not for the faint-hearted. When two men make an unspoken connection in the midst of this unbridled passion, a bond is formed that propels them towards the destiny they’re meant to share together. Through spontaneous adventure through the streets of Paris and intimate conversation, they share experiences that will tie them together forever.
Directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau waste no time dropping the viewer into the heart of the story. Descending immediately into the action at a gay sex club in Paris, we are instantly drawn to Theo (Geoffrey Couët), a first-timer looking to experiment. He has his eyes locked on Hugo (François Nambot) and begins working his way to him. Through incredibly sexy and steamy interactions, they end up together and share one of the most intense moments of their lives. They decide to leave the club together and spend more time together. While aimlessly riding bikes through the streets, it is revealed that Hugo is HIV-positive and Theo may have exposed himself through his careless actions. Anger and desperation set in and Theo resolves to handle this on his own, heading straight to the hospital. Hugo follows, meeting up with him in a bid to not let him handle this alone. As angry as Theo is, it’s undeniable the chemistry they have with each other. They end up spending the rest of the early-morning hours together, dealing with the doctor, walking through the streets, looking for food and spontaneously hopping on transit. Through their shared adventures and emotional encounters, it’s clearly evident that they are meant to be together and will not be parting ways once this night is over. We witness the start of a profound relationship that is as close to love at first sight as you can get.
Paris 05:59 of course immediately recalls films executed in similar fashion such as Richard Linklater’s Before… series, Chris Evans’ directorial debut film Before We Go, and to a lesser extent Andrew Haigh’s Weekend. They are those once-in-a-lifetime, all-nighter magical stories that enchant in their simplicity. This film unfolds in a similar vain and it’s wonderfully romantic. It’s told in a contemporary setting, with the characters facing the health and social challenges that are the realities of gay dating in this age.
While having the potential of being borderline offensive to some, the film’s frank depictions of gay sex, nudity, and the realities of HIV are refreshing. Often in North American cinema we get sanitized versions of these elements which usually dampens the impact of the stories being told. If seeing real sex on screen is not a problem, it is well worth the time to see this film. The story that unravels from those graphic moments at the beginning makes it all worthwhile.
Awash in alluring sensuality, Paris 05:59 is a bold and engaging addition to the LGBT cinema landscape. Anyone who is a fan of these types of films and the ones that came before will be confronted by a relationship on display that embodies everything that makes this genre lovable. It’s a film that won’t disappoint, leaving the viewer begging to find out what happens at 06:00.