Les Invisibles is the latest offering from renowned, and awarding winning, filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz (Director of the beautiful Presque Rien, 2000). His latest non-fiction effort explores the lives of a group of ageing homosexuals in France. In essence it’s an ode to ‘the forgotten gays’, but moreover it’s a fascinating exploration of what it is to be an ageing homosexual in society.
Comprised of intimate interviews with a range of people from across France, aged sixty and older, Les Invisibles is the culmination of over two years of research, which was born from Lifshitz’s chance discovery of antique photographs of a lesbian couple. This discovery prompted Lifshitz to question the accepted idea that older generations of homosexuals led fairly unpleasant lives. Speaking with both singletons and couples, Les Invisibles lifts the lid on the inner world of a whole generation of gay people who have largely been forgotten.
This documentary is a long overdue remedy to gay culture’s predilection for youth culture, which has too long left the stories and lives of the older generations confined to the vacuum of ignorance. With candid discussions of sex and love it becomes something of a revelation to be finally confronted with the voices of those who gay culture essentially overlooks; yet these are the stories fundamental to our development as a community. These people are pioneers and their stories, although tainted with prejudice and bigotry as you would expect, are also often joyous, revealing a side of homosexual existence, and indeed an ethos for living in general, that only those of a certain age have the monopoly on.
Moreover, this is a work of great equalising power; as we see these people living their daily lives we are shown small but hugely moving moments of human intimacy (i.e. intimacy not exclusive to homosexuality): We see a man helping his less-mobile partner pull up his socks. This small scene captures a moment that has potential to resonate with everyone, gay or straight; we are reminded not of the difference between gay and straight, but of the overt similarities. What’s the old adage? “Age is a great equaliser”. The humanising quality of this documentary is particularly apt in light of the current political upheaval surrounding gay marriage in France (and indeed the world).
Aside from the thematic and political relevance of this project, the filmmaking is finely judged, sensitively offering no narration, allowing the characters to speak for themselves. This enables an honest and intimate framework to develop; the spotlight is, rightly, entirely on the contributors. Their thoughts, experiences, and ideals flourish by not being subject to documentarian analysis or interpretation, and are therefore so much more profound, even if apparently domestic in some cases.
Overall, for my money, this is a work of great importance, brilliantly executed. Lifshitz’s research labours have paid off, and his filmmaking experience pays dividends. Les Invisibles is a uniquely beautiful and poignant insight to a part of gay and lesbian history that thankfully has finally been given a voice. There is life after thirty – who knew!
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Les Invisibles is now showing in UK cinemas.