LGBT Movies: Man of Desire (1970)

A married man becomes obsessed with a teenage hustler. His wife intervenes. Man of Desire aches with sexual frustration. Each character is afraid of what they want. The film is in no hurry to give it to them. Dominique Delouche’s screenplay goes where most old queer stories go. But it takes some interesting detours along the way.

Learn more in this spoiler filled recap.

Act One: Meet Cute

Scene One: Hitchhiker
ETIENNE (An author): Need a lift?
RUDY (A hustler): … (Rudy gets in the car.)
ETIENNE: You look sad.
RUDY: … (Rudy steals cash from Etienne’s wallet.)
ETIENNE: Here’s my number. Call me maybe.  

Scene Two: Confession
ETIENNE: I’m in love with a boy. Is that wrong?

Scene Three: Etienne’s Home
ETIENNE: I met someone. A boy who smells like a wet dog.
WIFE: Your dog called. I’ve invited him for lunch.
RUDY: Hey. What does a married man want with a trouble maker like me?
ETIENNE: (Awkward bisexual silence.)

Act Two: Country House

Scene Four: Etienne’s Home at Night
RUDY: Don’t mind me. I’m just sleepwalking with my shirt off.
ETIENNE: I’ll carry you back to the guest bed.
RUDY: Care to join me?
(Etienne flees in tears.)
RUDY: So that’s a rain check?

Scene Five: Break Up
RUDY: I’m leaving. Your home is suffocating.
ETIENNE: Don’t go.
RUDY: Does your wife know you want to screw me? (Etienne slaps him.) She totally does.
(Etienne follows Rudy to a bath house. Rudy and his fellow hustlers throw Etienne out.)
HUSTLER GANG: Stay away perv or you’ll be sorry.

Act Three: By the Water

Scene Six: A Lake
RUDY: Your husband bailed me out of jail. Why won’t he sleep with me?
WIFE: I’ll sleep with you. (She does.)
RUDY: Meh. I need to find your husband.  
RUDY: Where the hell did that come from? (Rudy leaves.)

Scene Seven: A Beach
RUDY: I can’t fight it anymore. I love you.
ETIENNE: You love my wife. My money.
HUSTLER GANG: Rudy’s abandoning us for this old pervert!
(The Hustlers attack Rudy. Etienne tries to save him. Rudy pulls a gun on Etienne and shoots him.)
ETIENNE: Why on earth did you do that?
RUDY: No idea. I’m just as surprised as you.
(Etienne falls to the ground. Rudy kisses the bullet wound. Then loads Etienne into his car and drives off into the night.)


Un Triste Mystère

Dominique Delouche is an uncommon and extraordinary movie director. Though he made his debut in the film industry as an assistant of Federico Fellini… and then produced his own feature films, including L’Homme de désir (First Prize at the Max Ophüls Festival in 1971), Dominique Delouche dedicated most of his career to the choreographic world with the aim to grasp the essence of dance and hand it down to the next generations.

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Etienne tells himself he can take on a paternal role. He and his wife, Valentine, keep Rudy in their guest room and dote on him like a son. Rudy doesn’t trust the arrangement. He keeps pointing out the sexual desire that they try to ignore. At the time France’s age of consent was 15 for heterosexual relations and 21 for same-sex ones. The 19-year-old Rudy would put Etienne at risk. In the end it’s Valentine who upsets the balance. Does she want the boy? Or simply to tear him away from her husband?

The chill priest was played by controversial priest Marc Oraison. Oraison wrote several novels on human sexuality. The church chastised him for his tolerance of homosexuality and sex in general. A Cardinal once told him that to remain sexually pure one only needed a diet of “fright, spaghetti and beans.”

Why does Rudy shoot Etienne? Was it an accident? A side effect of internalized biphobia? Is this how Delouche assumed a queer story had to end? In 1979 the French film We Were One Man also ended with the hero inexplicably shooting his lover. A 2013 French film, Eastern Boys, took a similar client/ hustler romance in a very different direction. It would make an interesting double feature with Man of Desire.

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