'Passages' is the fabulous portrait of pure toxicity: a film about modern relationships and unbridled sex that ends up falling into apathy

Ira Sachs presents a film in which Ben Whishaw has to put up with the worst boyfriend in the history of humanity. Yes, even worse than your ex

REVIEWS Randy Meeks
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Today there is a real debate, especially in the United States, about sex in movies. It's really necessary? Why include sexual scenes in your script if many times they don't even advance the plot? In the days of one-click porn, do we really still want to see naked people on the big screen? 'Passages' is, in this sense, a punk film against an absurd puritanism: sex becomes a vital way of understanding needy and broken characters who would give everything to feel a little real affection. Sexual nonconformity for an anesthetized cinema.

Toxicity outside, bad vibes outside
Sex as a way to flood someone with toxicity. Love as a currency to get people to dance to your tune, almost like a contractual relationship. Passion as the necessary evil to be able to control the lives of others. 'Passages' is the portrait of two broken people, dancing to the tune of a third, a toxic artist , a manipulative genius who manages to get his way through intimidation, insistence and the need for affection from a battered society.


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'Passages' is a strange, melancholic film that continually moves between the most decadent reality and the most unpredictable fiction. At the end of the day, we all know a Tomas (Franz Rogowski), a being capable of extending his claws until he becomes the center of the lives of people who should despise him but, instead, have him at an altar and long for his love. . And it's not that he is someone especially beautiful or talented, but he knows how to play his cards (forgiveness, greed, the unfulfilled dreams that he can achieve) with art and virguería. Put more mundanely: he's a dick.

This is the perfect manual on toxicity and, therefore, how to protect yourself against it. And Tomas is only capable of filling his inner emptiness with the applause of others , whether externally - during the previews of his new film - or internally, subtly dominating every step, every word, every act of his lovers. , and getting angry when they don't automatically succeed or pretend not to understand their partners' slights. This isn't a love triangle: it's a pyramid of power , with two people craving the favors of the one at the top for no reason.

'Passages': no, it's not love
Neither Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos) nor Martin (Ben Whishaw) need Tomas at all, who the film, very intelligently, presents as a person without charisma, without inner beauty, without anything notable beyond a surgical talent to find the needs of his partners and make sure they believe that he is the key and solution for all of them. In a way, he becomes a kind of pagan god whose own worshipers despise . And yet, at the end of the day, he has to worship Him without remission. Because theirs is the power of understanding, infinite love and, of course, sex.

If you are one of those I was talking about at the beginning, who can't watch sex on screen without it taking you out of the movie, 'Passages' is not made for you. Ira Sachs' film challenges an increasingly sanitized cinema by showing sexual scenes far from pornography (there is not a single genital in the entire film) but full of passion. Passion understood as obligation, as material to exchange for other favors and, ultimately - which disrupts the cold mind and interests of the capricious Tomas - as an unstoppable force.

The sex in 'Passages' is dirty, real, passionate. There are imperfect naked bodies, asses, raised feet, grunts, guttural sounds , uncontrolled moans, kisses, animal violence. Heterosexual, homosexual, routine, unpredictable sex, which dictates the vital moment of each character and how they face a new routine marked, infallibly, by one of them: Tomas does not know how to convince when speaking, but he does know how to convince in bed, the the only place where it does not acquire its dominant aspect. Sex is the last bastion of its victims where they still believe they have a little power, even if this is absolutely illusory.

The nuances in sex
It is true that the puzzle between relationships proposed by the film declines in its third act , as it approaches its end: the characters end up becoming caricatures of themselves, while, paradoxically, they gain confidence in themselves, and the pyramid of sex and manipulations is no longer enough. Sadly, its final part breaks with the realism that it displays throughout the rest of the film to pose bizarre and impossible situations in which it is only possible to enter as a spectator by taking an erratic leap of faith.

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In a hypersexualized (but not hypersexual) society, the audience has turned against the fun of cinematic relationships understood as a mere recreational pastime. We have accustomed our eyes to pornography until we have libidinous asepsis and a solitary audiovisual routine. However, 'Passages' goes to show that cinema is more powerful than any black or white that social networks try to minimize debates: there are nuances in sex, there are stories to tell, it is still important in an adult story .

Not as a lubricious object - there is nothing in the film that can excite us - but as a way of encapsulating the humanity of characters so lost and broken that they only believe they can get back together when they find a caress, a phrase said with clear security and a poorly timed orgasm.