Armond White at the New York Press describes AndrÃ© TÃ©chinÃ© as "the best French director most Americans donâ€™t know." "The Witnesses," TÃ©chinÃ©’s latest film, focuses on a group of Parisian friends (among them Emmanuelle BÃ©art and Michel Blanc) confronted with the onset of AIDS in 1984. Though it’s a relatively quiet week for theatrical releases, the film, which opens in New York and California, is unlikely to be that inconceivable breakthrough that makes TÃ©chinÃ© a household name, but that’s not for lack of love from the critics. White, who can’t love one director without bashing another, takes a hachet to Olivier Assayas while writing that TÃ©chinÃ© "shows what life-affirming really means." "TÃ©chinÃ© takes the subtlest measure of class, race, and sexual difference within his narrative," adds Nathan Lee at the Village Voice. "The first hour of Witnesses is the best thing of its kind since Kings and Queen, Arnaud Desplechin’s dizzying meta-melodrama, though TÃ©chinÃ© meets that picture’s onrushing richness sans dependence on rhetorical pyrotechnics." Michael Koresky at indieWIRE suggests that "TÃ©chinÃ© is fascinated by the ways in which lives interact, personalities cross-pollinate, wounds are compounded, exacerbated, or even healed, yet never in that increasingly mundane American style of overlapping stories that prize fate or coincidence; he paints specifically, creating not vague character sketches but full lives, however defined by enigma or contradiction."
At New York, David Edelstein describes the film as "excitingly convoluted," seeing the shift from melodrama to AIDS drama as "literally a coitus interruptus" and concluding that "Itâ€™s no mean feat to shift the hub and leave us more intrigued than annoyed." Stephen Holden at the New York Times salutes the way that the film "sidesteps most of its opportunities for high drama, political sermonizing and the jerking of tears," going on to write that "Mr. TÃ©chinÃ© refuses to pass moral judgment on any human behavior pertaining to love and desire. His recognition that these things are transient and constantly changing frees him to take a longer view."
David Denby at the New Yorker expresses a few hesitations, mainly that "The Witnesses" is "highly intelligent, but, still, one wants more out of this particular subject than lucidity and good sense."
TÃ©chinÃ© has made such strong movies as "French Provincial" (1975) and â€œWild Reedsâ€ (1994), but â€œThe Witnesses,â€ despite some bouts of temper and bitterness, has a largely placid bourgeois surface… Rawness is a quality that seems to have disappeared from French cinema with the death of Maurice Pialat.