Water Drops on Burning Rocks
Zeitgeist Video // Unrated // $29.99 // October 9, 2001
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted January 21, 2002
Highly Recommended
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The Story:The 70's... Swaggering and confident 50 yr old businessman Leopold meets and seduces a young, somewhat naive, 19 yr old named Franz. The seduction is like a snake and a rat, the smug Leopold easily working his charms over the youngster. Six months later, Franz has effectively ditched his fiancee and become Leopold's domestic lap dog, scurrying around the house in lederhosen, primping himself, kowtowing to Leopold's rigid lifestyle. With Franz both tiring of Leopold authority yet still under his sway, their relationship starts to strain. While Leopold is away on business, Franz's old fiancee, the cute Anna, shows up and offers to take Franz back. Soon, things get more complicated, as Leopold returns, quickly charms Anna, and Leopold's old lover arrives, Vera, who had a sex change just to please Leopold. The dominant seducer puts the two women under his charm, bedding both of them, and Franz is forced to try to think of some way out, some way to escape Leopold's magnetism.

The Film:Fracois Ozon is a bipolar film maker. I've now seen four of his films and can safely say that they can be split down the middle, either being intense, deeply psychological and somewhat dark, or at the other end of the spectrum completely satirical sex comedies. His brilliant, disturbing short film See the Sea is one of the most haunting, deliberate, suspense pieces I've seen, and equally as haunting is his recent acclaimed Under The Sand with Charlotte Rampling as a woman whose husband disappears, but she is so shattered by his disappearance that she refuses to behave or believe he is gone. But Water Drops... belongs is the black humored vein like his film Sitcom. Both are farces, poking fun at sexuality-relationships, Sitcom the bourgeois suburban family and Water Drops... the lives of singles moving in and playing house, and lopsided, domineered couples. I guess you could say Under The Sand and See the Sea have more in common with Haneke and Bergman, whereas Water Drops... and Sitcom are much more John Waters meets Luis Bunuel. So, in a typically French way, Water Drops... combines the intellectual and psychological into a cutting comedy of tragedy and cruelties.

The film is based on a play by the late great Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who never staged the play and wrote it when he was only 19. The film is divided into three acts, ACT I being the seduction of Franz by Leopold, ACT II flashing forward six months to the domestic life the two have set up and the beginning of strains on their relationship, and ACT III being the whole mess falling apart with the other players, Anna and Vera, coming in, Leopold's command over all of them, and Franz's solution to getting away from Leopold. The evidence that is was a play is pretty blatant, one setting- the tidy claustrophobic apartment, and while Ozon is a keen symmetrical visualist, the vast majority of information is told through dialogue and the actors give and take repartee. And, while it is funny, I didn't find it laugh at loud funny, more of a keen chuckle here and there. It is a deft tale of sexual mores, a standard power play, but its selling points are not its comedy, but certainly all the top notch performances, especially Bernard Giraudeau as Leopold.

Fassbinder fans will no doubt be pleased how this lost work was made into a fine film, and, although it not exactly re-inventing the wheel, foreign film lovers liking a good give and take acting and offbeat humor film will find Water Drops on Burning Rocks a very pleasant distraction.

The DVD: Zietgiest Video

Picture- Widescreen. Strong color, and somewhat soft, but overall very nice transfer. I was particularly pleased to see a good image after buying Sitcom on video and getting a copy that almost looked like a workprint (New Yorker Video wouldn't you know). Here Zietgiest presents a good digital transfer that will be more than acceptable for foreign film fans.

Sound- Very good French Dolby 2.0 with default with English subtitles.

Extras-12 Chapters--- Good Bios and Filmographies for Ozon and Fassbinder---- Two trailer for the film, one French one English, plus trailers for other Zietgiest titles Aimee & Jaguar, Acid House, and Lumumba--- Sing-A-Long subs for the hilarious musical number ("Tanze Samba Mit Mir" by Tony Holiday), plus in a similar vein translation for a poem that Franz composes, which Ozon doesn't provide translation for in the actual film itslef.

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