The Best Way to Walk is a curious—often mind-boggling—French film from 1976 about two male summer camp counselors, and the S&M mind games they play together after one of them discovers the other dressed in drag.
It's 1960 at a summer camp for boys. Philippe (Patrick Bouchitey), the theater instructor, is the son of the camp director. Marc (Patrick Dewaere) is the butch, hairy, muscular athletic director. The two are pretty standoffish with each other. But then, during a blackout one night, Marc goes to Philippe's room to borrow some candles, and catches him in wig, dress, and lipstick. Philippe immediately begins to think Marc is going to tell everyone and ruin his life, but he soon gets a power trip vibe from Marc, who makes uncomfortable innuendos around him when they are in public, walking the line of blurting out what he saw. So Philippe tries to befriend Marc…but that doesn't work. When the two bring their groups—theater boys and athletic boys—together, Marc proves, not with words, but with actions, that theater boys are sissies. But there's another catch. Philippe has a girlfriend…and when she comes to visit, she can tell he's changed, and Marc is all ready to make Philippe and his girl feel awkward around each other. But Philippe is not going to take the emotional rape lying down. He has plans for Marc.
This is one odd film. Let me say for starters that, despite being filmed in 1976, it's somehow a timeless visual experience. Nothing, from surroundings to fashions and hairstyles, hinted at what decade this movie took place in. It was very surreal that way—some of the camp counselors even look quite contemporary. Filmed when it was, it of course focuses on butch/femme stereotypes. However, this isn't a drag film. That side of Philippe's life is never really explored. The focus here is on the tension between Marc and Philippe. Just as Philippe can't figure out what Marc wants out of this emotional blackmail, neither can the audience. The suggestion is that Marc is hot for Philippe, and while the sexual tension keeps us hoping that Marc will eventually give in and serve up that big muscle butt of his (which he does expose in a very intimate scene--along with his package...), Marc just never comes off as a self-loathing closet case. He really seems like a man's man who thinks gays are gross. They cast a real man for the part, and maybe the casting was too good. He's beefy and hairy and runs around in tight undies a lot, which is the upside to the film. The real problem I have with the film is the ending. While the movie was semi-sadistic yet sexually compelling, once Philippe's girl comes, things just fall apart. And the ending, honestly made NO sense to me. While it was extremely disturbing at moments, there were also parts of it that came off as comical, and I wasn't sure if it was the language barrier and the sterility of subtitles that was making me lose the mood of the film. But I'll just say the climax is really weird, and the little "wrap up" at the end explains nothing and leaves the viewer totally confused. A true disappointment. Finally, the concept of this taking place in 1960 is never really addressed either. The time period became totally irrelevant, having little impact on the storyline.
The movie has an aspect ratio of 1:66:1, but it is letterboxed. Being this old, the print is plagued by dust and specs, but they sort of get lost in how incredibly dark the image is. The blacks are so rich that they consume the picture. In an attempt to balance that out, there are slightly overdone levels of color saturation, which still seem pale in comparison to the darks! The hint of edge enhancement actually works to sharpen the image nicely. The film also goes sporadically grainy. Watching in progressive scan helps tighten up the picture's definition, but also helps enhance its flaws.
This is straightforward mono. While the sound is clear and loud enough, it gets a little shrill during loud outbursts.
Scene access offers 18 chapter breaks, but I tried to use them, and I couldn't get past the first page of chapters (I was trying to get to the part where Marc exposes his butt, because my boyfriend wanted to see it). The disc kept kicking me back to the main menu. I don't know if this is a flaw in the pressing, or if it was just my copy. There are 4 trailers for films by the director, Claude Miller, and text filmographies of the director and the lead actors. Finally, there are DVD-ROM weblinks for the sites of the movie studio that released this DVD, and a promo code offer for 10% off products on the website. You can also turn on or off the English subtitles, which carry through to teh previews.
The Best Way to Walk begins as a rather intense sexual clash between a masculine athletic director and a softer theater director at a summer camp. It leads into a rather cruel S&M mind game, and ends in a bizarre, disturbing final confrontation and a convoluted resolution.