French Film Festival UK Review: Tahar Rahim in ‘Don Juan’

Tahar Rahim leads Don Juan from filmmaker Serge Bozon which screens as part of the French Film Festival UK. Bozon takes on a classic literary figure once again, following his take on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with Isabelle Huppert in 2017’s Mrs Hyde, yet here combines musical and comedic elements for this melodramatic glimpse into the tale of the legendary womanizer.

Penned by Bozon and Axelle Ropert, Don Juan centres on Laurent (Rahim), jilted on his wedding day by Julie (Virginie Efira) whilst he takes on the stage role of classic lothario Don Juan. Crippled by this rejection, Laurent begins to see his ex-fiancée in all the women he meets and subsequently attempts to seduce them. Emotions are further heightened when the leading lady quits and the production brings in Julie as the replacement.

Tahar Rahim’s interpretation of the Juan role is one that surpasses his handsome looks with the performer capturing a sense of the broken man haunted by such public rejection. Bozon depicts a man chaotically navigating his unhealthy relationships and interactions with women, which grow increasingly erratic and unreciprocated as he spirals post-jilting. Rahim captures this in a serious manner yet allows a sense of melodramatic camp to permeate through his debonair exterior thanks to chanson-laced musical numbers. Rahim channels the pained dejected romantic anguish of Francophone crooners such as Jacques Brel and Claude Francois as his advances become increasingly elaborate and disregarded.

Bozon’s take on the Don Juan persona finds strength in its depiction of Laurent at the mercy of the women around him. This tale retains a contemporary punch and edge thanks to the shift in power dynamics, Laurent is a figure packing an uneasy desperation and obsessive desire to fill the emotional and romantic void created by Julie. The female characters that make up Don Juan hold the strength in their interactions with the lothario – some ending in flat passion others in indifference or rejection. The constant string of desperate interactions with women can lead to something of a fragmented approach in Don Juan’s narrative, whilst scenes exploring Laurent drinking with the father of a dead young woman who he had previously left can also slow the pace of Bozon’s feature.

Bozon directs with a languorous energy, complimented by Sébastien Buchmann’s lingering cinematography. Slow-burning shots gazing at Laurent’s attempted objects of seduction and scenes accentuated with bold natural colours ensure that Don Juan packs a polished aesthetic palette

Don Juan‘s spin on the world of the classic lothario is elevated by a contemporary edge and power shift in gender dynamics explored in Bozon’s narrative and Rahim’s impressive performance.

Don Juan plays as part of the French Film Festival UK. For screening details check here.

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