A friend recommended this film to me, and encouraged English subtitles rather than the dubbed version. She was right.
The film starts with the “male gaze”—literal and metaphorical. Protagonist Damien unabashedly objectifies women following a well-worn script. After a head injury, women suddenly are in charge and his exact lines are used against him. Bestselling author Alexandra has writer’s block, but decides to secretly audiorecord Damien and steal his “reality” to write a “novel,” crushing his heart as a bonus.
I’ve often thought “if women were in charge, the world would be friendlier to all,” but this is not the world Pourriat portrays. This film portrays society flipped, rather than society bettered. Her women treat men as terribly (and as obliviously) as the worst of men in today’s society treat women.
We start with obvious double standards around body hair and fashion. Soon, subtler details surprised me: women throw men up against the wall in seduction scenes. In poker, a pair of queens beats a pair of kings.
As Damien tries to adjust to his new reality, he still thinks of relationships in sexual terms. But soon Damien joins a “masculinist” movement to try to gain (or, from his perspective, regain) his rights. By the last ten minutes of the film, Damien feels betrayed from a very “feminine” perspective, while Alexandra confesses a very “masculine” crime. The denouement left me speechless for days.
I chatted again with my friend who recommended the film, and her husband commented that he saw Damien as “someone who was seeking his equal even though he didn’t always act like he wanted that.” I abhorred Damien, and so I was astonished at this perspective. But sure enough, when I watched it a second time, I could empathize so much more with Damien. The third time I watched I caught even more wonderful subtleties: unattractive potential rapists with unruly hair and an eye patch, Damien’s miniscule front pockets in his new pants, gay bars as a venue for inverted expectations, Damien’s toothbrush in Alexandra’s apartment signifying his feelings of “dirtiness” at what was revealed.
This film deserves watching and rewatching, through different lenses and with different friends. Kudos to the filmmakers!
I Am Not An Easy Man / Je ne suis pas un homme facile is available to stream on Netflix.
Luci Englert McKean is a film fan, feminist and longtime friend of Barbara Ann O’Leary and Directed by Women. Photo copyright Natasha Komoda.