Told in real time, Paris 05:59 Théo & Hugo devotes the first 18 of its 93 minutes (not including credits) to the frenzied fun happening during the wee hours in the red-light-bathed basement of a gay sex club in Les Halles. It is there that Théo (Geoffrey Couët) and Hugo (François Nambot), among the slightest of the writhing, moaning, mostly ephebic figures, lock eyes while mounting other partners, soon to be ditched so that these two can be more fully intertwined with each other.
Filmmakers Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau cleverly capture the codes and customs that guide even extreme Dionysian milieus — the lube and condom dispensers, the coat/clothing check and settling of drink tabs that follow the group rutting — with an attention to detail that keeps viewers engaged when the bland, acharismatic central couple, who cycle, walk, talk, kiss, and fight in a pre-dawn City of Light, fail to.
Recalling other cine-duets, both straight (Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise) and gay (Andrew Haigh’s Weekend), Paris 05:59 distinguishes itself by seamlessly including a lesson on HIV post-exposure prophylaxis: The protocol is outlined by an imperturbable doctor at a hospital in the Tenth Arrondissement once the men discover, minutes after leaving the club, that they have discordant serostatuses and failed to follow safe-sex practices. These medical facts, along with the delights of Paris particulars — the Canal Saint-Martin in the dead hours, the faces of early-morning Métro riders — give the film ballast when Théo and Hugo’s getting-to-know-you patter grows too precious.
Paris 05:59 Théo & Hugo
Written and directed by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau
Opens January 27, IFC Center