Antony Hickling Takes a Spiritual Gay Journey 'Down In Paris'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday October 9, 2021

'Down in Paris'
'Down in Paris'  (Source:Reeling)

Out filmmaker Antony Hickling co-writes, directs, and stars as a gay movie director named Richard in a film that feels a little like a modern "Divine Comedy" with an LGBTQ+ twist, a little like a ghost story, and a little like a queer version of Scorsese's 1985 comedy "After Hours."

Richard is in the midst of trying to make a scene work when he's gripped by a creative and spiritual crisis. Fleeing the set, he spends a long night wandering the various precincts of Paris, having adventures both mundane and otherworldly as he experiences miracles and emotional turmoil.

An early stop on his journey is, of course, at his favorite bar. There, he meets an English woman, Elizabeth (Nina Bakhshayesh), who is embroiled in a crisis of her own — a health crisis that, she fears, will turn out for the worst. Still, he's there, she's there, and it turns out they have certain things in common that they can laugh about. One thing's for sure: Richard has to turn down Elizabeth's implied invitation back to her hotel room.

It's directly after this bout of friendly flirting that Richard runs into his ex, Frédéric (Raphaël Bouvet), on the street. A wary exchange soon escalates into a shouting match that sends Richard careening into his next few adventures in a raw emotional state — including an emergency appointment with a psychic (Dominique Frot) and a stopover at a church, where an otherworldly young man (Claudius Pan) reads him the riot act. His words are harsh, and yet the scene is played with a gentleness and intimate energy that open the way to something that might be either a dream or a holy vision.

All of that is just for starters. As the night unfolds, still more extremes and surprises are in store, including an awkward reunion with an old friend (Manuel Blanc), an adventure at a sex club, and an encounter with a gruff old man who might just be God (Jean-Christoph Bouvet).

Each episode peels back more layers, showing us an artist in the midst of the creative process, a bereft lover, a grieving son, and — like all of us — an adult who's still trying to reconnect with and soothe his inner child. By turns funny, fantastical, and philosophical, the film leads Richard to a place of cleaning and renewal, and allows us to share in his fears and elations. (In French, with subtitles.)

"Down in Paris" is screening at OUTshine Fort Lauderdale.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.