You Deserve a Lover
A feminist Kechiche ?
Shown this week in Cannes during the Critic’s Week,
this movie establishes Hafsia Herzi’s first steps as a director.
Although Kechiche’s muse flirts with his codes
it is only to make them more feminine.
By Garance Lunven
Reading Time 4 min.
With no less than 178 close ups on women backsides, the second chapter of Mektoub My Love : Inermezzo appalled everyone during last Cannes Film Festival. While, alongside, his favourtite actress was presenting her first feature film : You Deserve a Lover. Discovered in the first success of the controversial director — The Secret of The Grain, Hafsia Herzi starts her career as a directress, and proves that she is at ease as much behind the camera as she is in front of it.
Sensitive and touching, this movie explores contemporary love stories through a female protagonist — interpreted by the directress — Lila. After a tough breakup with her boyfriend, played by Jérémie Laheurte (Blue is the warmest color, Private War…), Lila looks for comfort in the arms of other men. Matching apps, pick up lines and one night stands…. She sees a parade of men, each more cliché than the others. From the suave serenading Italian to the poor macho guy wearing socks in his flip flops. Then come the erotic scenes, from the elevator of her building to the hood of a car. There even is a threesome with a libertine couple. Hafsia Herzi demonstrates once again that cinema runs in her blood, just like in The Secret of the Grain or Bertrand Bonello’s sensual House of Tolerance. In between Gaspard Noé and her mentor, the young woman has a weakness for avid kisses and suction noises. She proves at the same time that she can do just as well as Kechiche, with a small budget and only two weeks of shooting.
Even if all the Kechiche grammar is used in the movie,
Hafsia adds a touch of her own.
However, she does not forget to use the codes that made Kechiche a master in his work. Huge couscouses, lascivious belly dancing, relentless close ups and nightclub scenes are served. But these segments that go on forever in Mektoub My Love, or in The Secret of the Grain find themselves compressed in You Deserve a Lover. And they become more bearable. Even if all the Kechiche grammar is used, Hasfia adds her own touch. A sensibility and a spontaneity that speaks to the audiences. As an actress, she has such an empathetic power that when Hafsia cries, we cry and when Hafsia laughs, we laugh with her. Aware of the weaknesses a small budget movie might have, the directress compensates with a lot of humour, particularly through the character of her gay best friend ( far from the usual mocking clichés of rom-coms), played by Djanis Bouzyani. It is also a way for her to part ways with the one who introduced her to the world of cinema… and perhaps to mock him?
Although the French-Tunisian director became a prime target for feminists, who despise him ever since Blue is the warmest colour, Hafsia Herzi might have found the recipe to make the Kechiche style more tolerable. Many actresses who worked for him have complained about the shooting experience, including Léa Seydoux and Ophélie Bau. At issue, his frontal, even lecherous, relation to sexuality. This obsession for erotism led to a virulent nickname for Mektoub My love : « Male Gaze : the movie ». This concept represents the domination of the male gaze in pop culture, and can be translated in a movie by long scenes detailing female bodies that are not justified by the story. In other words, it is the masturbation fantasy of heterosexual directors. You deserve a Lover is far from forcing only feminine forms onto the viewer. On the contrary, Hafsia Herzi seems to pinpoint with irony the vice of a new masculine generation.
Portrait of a generation
The directress explores the consumerist way of life of the Tinder era with an almost zoological gaze. Young men nowadays charm with pre-made pick up lines, cheat and go back to swiping on dating apps. A three count waltz that takes the risk of offending any partisan of the #notallmen movement, as Hafsia Herzi’s bias is corrosive and pushes women to take their destiny in their own hands. The directress gives us a beautiful and feminist empowering lesson, through the avant-garde figure of Frida Kahlo and her poem « You deserve a lover » — which inspired the title of the film. A way of life she puts into practice, since she directed the movie from beginning to end going from directing to acting to scriptwriting.
What Kechiche depicts as a vicious teenage summer beach fantasy, Herzi turns it into a poetic and modern quest for love. When he shots 20 minutes long orgies, she presents the carnal relationship between a young woman and her desires. With her new and feminine gaze, Hafsia Herzi is the spice that lacks in the couscous Kechiche keeps on serving.