Une histoire sans importance (1980)
Claude and Philippe are two young boys that meet in school. Philippe has a group of friends and even a girl that seems to follow him everywhere, but even so he feels progressively interested in Claude, a kid younger than the rest.
As they start spending time together, the line between friendship and infatuation becomes blurry. Confused about themselves and their burgeoning sexuality, a tension remains between them. One afternoon, the two boys are on Philippe’s bed, and Claude confesses to him that the train movement usually provokes him an erection, not unlike the one he is about to experience in his buddy’s bed. They talk about boys stuff, about wet dreams and, above all, self-pleasuring. Claude asks Philippe to jerk off in front of him; and Philippe explains to his friend that in order to masturbate one must first think of someone or something.
This assertion makes perfect sense if one thinks about Michele Foucault’s observations in his Histoire de la Sexualité, wherein the author affirms that masturbation cannot take place without fantasy, without an image that can exacerbate sexual desire. For Foucault, the first sexual stage in animals is coitus; for humans, however, this first stage is masturbation.
Lacan, on the other hand, would affirm that masturbation is the joy of the idiot, and although there can be many interpretations about this phrase, there is no doubt that in this short film, Philippe assumes the role of the idiot, id est, the role of the subject that can no longer escape from the phantasm, the idealized image of the other boy, precluding him from accepting reality as it is.
Later on, in a sleepover, Philippe starts touching Claude’s shoulder and torso; Claude pretends to be asleep but makes it easy for his friend to gain access to his crotch; as Philippe strokes Claude’s naked body, a moment of intimacy and clumsiness becomes poignant for the teenagers. Because of the age difference, Claude admires his friend, he feels like there is much he can learn from him, but at the same time he tries to defend his masculine position in the symbolic order Although Claude seems to be what Freud would denominate as a pubescent “perverse polymorph”, Philippe wrongly interprets the signs he thinks his friend is giving off. As a result, when they go camping and Claude kisses a girl, Philippe understands what’s going and starts crying. The two boys share a tent, and once Claude gets in, Philippe almost loses his mind, he tries to touch the schoolboy and demands for his nudity; he ends up begging to see him nude, but the young boy refuses to indulge in yet another masturbatory setting.
Philippe leaves the tent, desperate, and from that moment on, everything falls to pieces. Whatever’s left of their friendship is now shattered, and Claude eludes his older friend. Philippe gets depressed, he stops eating, and he starts calling Claude’s home and following his friend from a distance. But nothing works. He has lost him. Claude lingers on, imprisoned as an idealized figure inside Philippe’s psyche, and it is Philippe’s inability to cope with the real what ultimately ruins everything. The ending, fierce and despondent, proves once again that we might have access to the body of the other, but we never have access to the other’s mind; the emotional void, the emptiness in Philippe’s heart will forever remain there.