›› Les Invisibles - The Invisible Ones
a film by Sébastien Lifshitz.
2012 | 115 mins | France.
featuring: Yann and Pierre, Bernard and Jacques, Pierrot, Therese, Christian, Catherine and Elisabeth (Babette), Monique, with Jacques Fortin.
Official Synopsis: "Focusing on eleven men and women born between the war years. Seemingly they have nothing in common, except their homosexuality and growing up in a less open, more intolerant society. Now in the 60s and 70s, this engaging documentary tells their personal stories, revealing often pioneering lives through seven decades of experience."
With so many films showcasing the beauty of youth, it is so refreshing, if not rare for the screen to be filled with the heart-warming recollections of a group of elderly men and women who lived through years when Gay Pride was but a dream.
For that is what cuts to the core here, that of a vivid portrait of turbulent times when homosexuality was but a social taboo, one that all too often walked hand-in-hand with shame and guilt. That people knew homosexuals existed, is not in doubt. Yet what was scandalous back them, was to proudly proclaim it. And proclaim it many did, taking to the streets marching for their beliefs; be it gay rights, women's rights, or both.
Ever marching for the cause in Les Invisibles.
Yet this is not just a history lesson on activism. For here we find eleven talking faces candidly reminisce about the pains and joys of their relationships; be it with men, with women or both. Peeling back the layers of time, they talk openly about their coming-of-age / coming out experiences, ones that not surprisingly vary as stories of sexual seduction give way to words of having almost given up all hope of finding love, let alone sex itself. Yet for others homosexuality was alive and kicking and not just in the city, but in remote rural areas too, ever present, that is, if you knew where to look.
Two men in love in Les Invisibles.
Juxtaposing cinematic shots of the French countryside with the beauty of the coastline in all of its Mediterranean blue and intercut with archive footage, together with a wealth of personal photos and home movies of the period, the result is an often intimate, at times funny, wondrous documentary that in a simple laid back fashion shines a light on the lives of those who lived through a time when homosexuality was but a social stigma, one that nevertheless did not stop one and all from going about their daily lives, back then, as now. And that perhaps is the bottom line here, given this is not just a compelling trip down memory lane, as director Sébastien Lifshitz of Presque Rien fame has clearly gone out of his way to detail the daily routines of his subjects today, lives that continue to be filled with "joie du vie," from tending to a farm to working as the local mayor, to running a bird sanctuary; whether single or in a relationship, all have lived a life and continue to do so.
Only in focusing his camera on them, Lifshitz is in reality focusing his lens on society, one in which an aging population is increasingly to be found withdrawn behind closed doors, in particular from the scene itself. And that is highly regrettable, for and as this poignant work so acutely illustrates, The Invisible Ones have so many moving stories to tell, having and as Lifshitz so aptly said: "paved the way to the freedom we enjoy today." Winner of the César Award for Best Documentary and nominated for the BFI London Film Festival Grierson Award, frankly, this is an immensely rewarding experience. Simply, essential viewing.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - the full monty - archive material.
Overall - file under ... 4 stars.