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Mott, G. (2004). The Vanishing Point of the Sexual Subject: The Closed, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, L.I.E., The Sixth Sense, The Others, Ytumamaa Tambien. Psychoanal. Rev., 91(4):607-614.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Review, 91(4):607-614

Film Note

The Vanishing Point of the Sexual Subject: The Closed, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, L.I.E., The Sixth Sense, The Others, Ytumamaa Tambien

Review by:
George Mott

Some recent films reveal interesting tendencies. Protagonists are frequently presented as having sexual problems that nevertheless give them a lot of pleasure. Whether squirming in the uncomfortable fit of sexual identity—as in The Closet, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, L.I.E., or Ytumama tambieen—or languishing as a kind of impotent alienated ghost— as in The Sixth Sense and The Others—several things emerge which bespeak the two meanings of “vanishing point”: “a point at which receding parallel lines seem to meet when represented in linear perspective”; and “a point at which something disappears or ceases to exist.” In any case, such problematized sexual positions make for good box office by allowing audiences to disavow the precarious nature of their own sexualities.

Francois, the protagonist of Francois Veber's The Closet, cunningly played by Daniel Auteil, is a French nebbish, ignored by family, friends, and coworkers. He works as an accountant for a firm that manufactures condoms and only narrowly avoids being fired by assuming a false gay identity. This prevents him from becoming a politically correct martyr and thus a commercial disaster for a firm which its president (Jean Rochefort) archly describes as “still having a few heterosexual customers.” This change of sexual identity, along with the manipulated photographs that he uses for the purpose, render Francois infinitely more alluring. It is as though the fact of his being gay establishes him as a desiring person in a way not possible for him as a heterosexual. At the risk of belaboring the point, the film seems to stress homosexual desire as a more authentic desire. Even his formerly apathetic son now finds him more interesting.

It is difficult to separate the role Auteil plays here from a previous one, the apathetic Stephane in Un coeur en hiver. As Stephane, he turns his back on love from a beautiful young woman and handily administers a lethal injection to a close friend who is terminally ill.

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