Benjamin Crotty’s “Fort Buchanan” — based on his short of the same name — will have its North
American premiere at New Directors/New Films this year. This hour-long French
film, a delicious mix of comedy and melodrama, screens March 25 at 6:30 pm at
Lincoln Center, and again March 29 at 1:30 pm, at MoMA.
The film plays like an ersatz and
amusing version of “Army Wives.” Roger (Andy Gillet) despairs with the other
soldier’s wives about Frank (David Baiot), his husband of 18 years, being
stationed in Djibouti. Their daughter, Roxy (Iliana Zabeth) is also looking to
start basic training, which causes both of them different kinds of anxiety.
Roger is sad his daughter is leaving home, and Roxy is disappointed that
Frank’s connections have helped her; she wanted to prove her worth on her own.
Other mini-dramas abound. Justine (Matty Diop) is a lonely married
woman, who makes some not so subtle advances towards the gay Guillaume
(Guillaume Palin), a hunky father of two. The various other women in Fort
Buchanan offer support to Roger, and make passes at Roxy, whom they see
developing into a lovely young woman.
“Fort Buchanan” deftly plays with gender roles throughout the film.
Although Roger is the “wife,” he is seen chopping wood and being “manly.” An
early sequence has Roger learning how to fight from a male trainer who swore he
would retaliate after his male partner abused him.
Moreover, when the spouses all visit Djibouti around the film’s
midpoint, Roger struggles to reignite the sexual spark in his relationship with
Frank. One woman advises Roger that the way to seduce your husband is by
getting a haircut and wearing “Daisy Dukes,” which he does. A later scene has
Roger wearing a towel on his head, like a turban (nevermind how short his hair
is) like a woman in a period melodrama.
Crotty’s film amuses in these moment, or other scenes that mesh
realism with camp. When Justine flirts with the gay Guillaume, she says that
she is willing to die for her country, but “fidelity is unrealistic.” When these
characters play soccer, there are also some comic sight gags.
“Fort Buchanan” is a slight film, but it has a genial sensibility,
and the film’s characters and their sense of unity is engaging. Many viewers
will wish this film were longer, or part of a series, so the characters could
be fleshed out even more. Hopefully, the ND/NF screening will enable Crotty to
expand his film further, so the characters’ romantic trials and tribulations