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Dear Johns

Dear Johns

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The catchwords for Before I Forget would seem to be direct, intimate, unsparing; yet, conversely, it also feels cavernous and, in its seeming brutal frankness, slippery and elusive. Either drenched in unyielding shadow or flooded with harsh light, Before I Forget follows the sixty-something Pierre (played by writer-director Jacques Nolot), a former hustler, HIV-positive for 24 years, living alone in a spacious Parisian apartment, who’s unmoored after the death of his elder benefactor. The premise is simple, intensely character-driven, and the structure linear and compartmentalized — we see Pierre’s daily activities, which involve, in no discernible order, meeting with fellow gay former gigolo friends of the same age, having comparatively impersonal trysts with hustlers of a much younger age, visiting his psychiatrist, and generally putting around his flat — but the result is enormously complex, a surveying of an entire life just past its midpoint via its practicalities and lost promises.

What makes Before I Forget especially compelling is that Nolot’s character is genuinely articulate, even something of a base philosophizer; perhaps a lesser filmmaker would have let the silences speak for its central character, but Pierre, presumably often taking on the voice of the film’s maker, expounds on what we see on screen with a fascinating mix of pragmatism and nihilism. He’s a man who, like the actor-director himself, seems to conceal nothing, visually typified by his willingness to expose his sagging middle-aged flesh for the camera under the glare of luminescent kitchen lights, but whose self-consciously prim posturing and proclivity to bare his soul to anyone who wants to listen (disengaged prostitute studs, friends increasingly tired of his ramblings) probably masks even deeper reservoirs of anguished loneliness than he’s ready to excavate.

Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of Before I Forget.

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