In its characteristically brisk and rich opening passages, André Téchiné's The Witnesses (Les Témoines) will have you seeing red. Lively, fiery, appetizing, yet ominous reds bleed or burn from the credits and from background spaces within the film's alternately urban and waterside mise-en-scènes. Téchiné's cunning and unsettling use of the color could be a subtle nod to the Eastmancolor era of his Cahiers du Cinema forefather Jean-Luc Godard. It's certainly a foreboding hint of what's to come in the film. Creatively speaking, it's also a sign of a renewed creative vigor marks of a master.
Choosing Téchiné's intimate Paris-set look at love under siege at the beginning of the AIDS crisis as its opening-night film, the Frameline fest, now in its 31st year, acknowledges its maturity. While LGBT identity might be thriving in the marketplace, The Witnesses does the hard work of looking back. Did gay culture almost die in the '80s? If so, that era's talented survivors such as Téchiné, a Roland Barthes acolyte casually mentioned by Barthes in diary entries leading up to the years in which Witnesses is set are guides. As his job description attests, Téchiné is a director, using a lively eye to uncover a past era's soul and intelligence so that it might be regained. *
THE WITNESSES (Andre Téchiné, France, 2007). Thurs/14, 7 p.m., Castro ($75$90 with opening gala)
SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL LGBT FILM FESTIVAL
The 31st San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, Frameline 31, runs June 1424 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakl.; Roxie Film Center, 3117 16th St., SF; and Victoria Theatre, 2961 Capp, SF. Tickets (most films $8$10) are available at www.frameline.org