Le roi de l’évasion (The King of Escape) (Director: Alain Guiraudie): Like any playful, surrealist French allegory, the title, The King of Escape, comes with a twofold meaning, referring to both the literal trajectory of the film—wherein zaftig 42-year-old homosexual Armand (Ludovic Berthillot) runs from a variety of oddball characters—as well as the academic suggestion, which posits queer life as a boyish escape from heteronormative demands and expectations. It works on both levels, playing out as a less accomplished and calculated Francois Ozon film from the ‘90s with a decidedly different, almost inverse perspective.
The identity construct here is that of an aging man with impulse-control issues. He succeeds as a salesman, stepping on toes when he solicits outside of his region (a theme consistent with all of his struggles), occasionally driving out to a gay cruising area on the hunt for endowed senior citizens—a Freudian indicator of passive role identification.
Initially, the film hops between his gay liaisons and fledgling curiosities at heterosexual life, playing rescuer to an acquaintance’s 16-year-old daughter Curly (Hafsia Herzi) when she is attacked, waxing dreamlike, but eventually lands a narrative thread with a romantic pursuit. Dissatisfied with the limitations his Peter Pan lifestyle has imposed, he pursues the girl romantically, despite contract pleas from her father Daniel (Luc Palun) and an overly observant police commissioner who saddles him with a sexual offender bracelet.
Taking comedy from sheer audacity, peculiarity and sexual role expectations, the film works best when on the go. Whether Armand is recognizing inappropriate erections or struggling with the nascent sexual needs of a young girl, whose desires and role recognition are quite different from those of a 70-year-old gay man, there are consistent curiosities and hilarities at every turn.
Of course, the niche subject matter and less than flattering assertions do limit the potential audience, seeing as many won’t “get it” and many others won’t want to. But a polished presentation with a sharp and directed sense of whimsy drive this one leaps and bounds beyond other genre offerings, for those inclined to such fare.