Death of a Virgin and the Sin of Not Living (George Peter Barbari, 2021, Lebanon)

Death of a Virgin and the Sin of Not Living is a strong debut from director George Peter Barbari. It is not often you find a first-time director who has such an assured voice. On paper, the film is deceptively simple. It tells the story of Etienne, a young man in Lebanon, who is going to visit a prostitute for the first time and lose his virginity with three friends - Adnan, Jean-Paul, and Saad. All of the characters are played by characters with the same name and are presumably non-actors. There is even a meta-reference within the film itself, where the young men have a conversation about someone making a film about their journey to the prostitute. One of them claims it would be a terrible film. 

The film exhibits a spare and minimalistic style, often with very long takes that follow the young men on their journey. Their macho bluster belies a lot of insecurity, and this is the film's main stylistic flourish. Each character - even incidental characters - is given voice-over monologues about how their future will unfold. These often express a great deal of tragedy, melancholy, and at times absurdity. This tragic poetry verges on overwrought, but somehow it works in the very mundane context of the film.

The film is also an incredible examination of masculinity. The film examines how men perceive their self-worth in sexual conquests. The final moments of the film, involving Etienne's recounting of his experience with a Syrian prostitute, are very moving in the way they express the difference between intimacy and sex. Someone on Letterboxd has called this film the melancholic and poetic version of Superbad, and there is some truth to that. The cinematography is truly outstanding, and the ambient and droning score often gives a great accompaniment to the interior monologues that unfold onscreen.



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