Agate Mousse IFFR Film Review

★★★

Directed by: #SelimMourad

Written by: #SelimMourad

Starring: #SelimMourad, #TamaraSaadé

Film Review by Alex Matraxia

Agate Mousse

Shifting between film-essay and dramatised tableaus, Agate Mousse (directed by Selim Mourad) is an innovative, unusual ode to life, death, and rebirth. Sometimes grappling with more than it can chew, sometimes undermining itself with misplaced cameral work, the film nevertheless feels like a venture into the unexplored.

Selim Mourad performs within his own film, personally guiding us into a solemn visitation with his doctor. It doesn’t look good, and the diagnosis leads Mourad to muse on the ephemerality of life, its inevitable decay; a powerful segment shows Mourad listing the names of various extinct species (including his own name…) during a less-than-ideal Grindr hookup. Visually, Mourad offers us glimpses of classic gay iconography: Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam can be seen in the background of the doctor’s office, and when Mourad silently broods in vulnerable nudity, his foetus-like pose echoes Hippolyte Flandrin’s Young Male Nude Seated Beside the Sea. Creation and tragedy seem fused by the gay sensibility pervading the film.

Mourad presents us with his own death (a morbid fascination to many); at this point, the film becomes a sort of worm-hole, a displaced roaming eye shifting between the lives of the living and reborn. Mourad’s image (inexplicably) appears in a series of photos lined on a gallery wall, a set of portraits somewhat warped by a circular frame. In fact, the film’s aspect ratio soon morphs into a similar circle, as if literalising the worm-hole-style structure, some spherical portal into other realms of life and death. It’s unclear whether we’re looking through the eyes of the deceased, or of future ghosts, or some other external spectre overlooking these persevering lives.

Poetic and meandering, but also shapeless as a whole; Agate Mousse would be a firmer, more meaningful watch if it was tied together with some semblance of a structure. But the candour, cinematography (of Karim Ghrayeb) and general atmosphere of the film are rich and emotive; generally the smell of balls, poppers, and photo chemicals emanate from the film with a robust aura of mortality. Hybrid filmmaking has a lot to offer, resisting the borders between fact and fiction. Though rough around the edges, Selim Mourad makes the most of a tough situation, an aspiration they wish to impart on an audience who has to remain hopeful in a world of hopeless situations.