Staying Vertical ** / *****
Directed by: Alain Guiraudie.
Written by: Alain Guiraudie.
Starring: Damien Bonnard (Léo), India Hair (Marie), Raphaël Thiéry (Jean-Louis), Christian Bouillette (Marcel), Basile Meilleurat (Yoan), Laure Calamy (Doctor Mirande).
Staying Vertical doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and what sense it does make isn’t very interesting. Guiraudie seemingly want to rub our face in something as an audience, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out what we’re being punished for. By making his protagonist a filmmaker, he encourages you to see Leo as his own doppelganger – but that’s not really very flattering for him – and I don’t see much of a connection. We never really know what kind of filmmaker Leo is, what sort of screenplay he’s supposed to be working on, or what happens with it after he writes some pages for his producer who shows up in the middle of nowhere one day, and proclaims the crap Leo has churned out to be brilliant.
If Staying Vertical shares anything with Stranger by the Lake, it’s in the contradiction of sex – its ability to bring pleasure and pain, to be fulfilling, and dangerous – sometimes at the same time – and how some people cannot say no, even if they should. I remember reading about Stranger by the Lake when it came out, and many saying it had little in common with Guiraduie’s other work, and if Staying Vertical is any indication, they were right. That film was great, Staying Vertical struck me as a shallow provocation, without much to say.