Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2012 5:04 pm 
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Stuck between youth and adulthood

François Pirot's directing debut focuses on the uncertain moment between youth and long-delayed adulthood shared by two young Belgians. Twenty-something Simon (Arthur Dupont) has left his job and girlfriend in Liège and is back in his Belgian village living with his parents. In the opening sequence he and his best friend Julien (Guillaume Gouix) get pleasantly drunk in town and struggle home on bikes, laughing all the way, the widescreen images underlining their happy lostness. With confused dreams and nothing to do, Simon persuades Julien to abandon plans to rehab a big barn on his father's property and instead to travel the world with him. He acquires a big "mobile home" camper with with money his parents gave him to settle down with. These two young men are charming and handsome, a cross between Jake Gyllenhaal and Romain Duris. They are foundering though. Pirot did a lot of the writing for two of Joachim Lafosse's films, and he's a talent worth watching. But this is a somewhat negligible effort, though it was critically well received in France.

Most of the focus tends to be on the energetic if totally confused Simon, though there's an important subplot about the relationship between Julien and his father Luc (Jean-Paul Bonnaire). Julien has stayed at home to see Luc through a serious illness, making them very close, and their parting therefore much more difficult than Simon's. Simon doesn't want to try to talk to his parents. He tries to hide from them that he's bought the big expensive camper with the money his dad's given him -- but they find out anyway in a funny chase scene. Their only real question for Simon is "Why?" which of course he can't answer. The pair talk about exotic places, but in the end the goal is only France. Trouble with the camper and the need to earn some money causes delays and uncertainty about departure. Simon, always trying to convince himself, enthuses about the joys of the road. They expect to get seasonal jobs like picking vegetables. His parents point out he would not do that at home.

In their prime, attractive to women, both embark on little affairs, treading water as their departure is delayed. They work digging "root balls," pulling up Christmas trees, paid by the tree, work at which Simon is useless. He takes in a girl still in school, who turns out to be too insecure and too clingy. Julien briefly dates a single mom with a small child. The most touching and telling sequence happens when Simon meets a former friend who's getting a chance to be in pictures, and this leads him to pretend ha can go back to his teenage dream of being a rock star. A little practicing with the old band and a frantic all-night attempt at songwriting and that fizzles. This of course is a cliché but Simon doesn't know that. A pointless visit with his ex-gf Sylvie (Anne-Pascale Clairembourg) only reveals more about his irresponsibility: he has left a ton of stuff with her he was expected to retrieve. In the end her father dumps it all in front of his parents' house and this is an infuriating embarrassment.

Simon and Julien aren't as self-indulgent as Apatow characters, or as funny; their uncertainty is agonizing and real. This is a simpler, slightly more youthful version of the almost-thirty crisis of the six young men in Gabriele Muccino's The Last Kiss, some of whom also make the decision to go off in a van with shapeless dreams of touring the world in it. Given the much simpler material here it falls to the two main actors to engage our interest, and Gouix and Dupont indeed are engaging and attractive; still it's somewhat surprising that Pirot, who contributed to two of Lafosse's very focused films, would chose such an evanescent theme for his own directorial debut. Mobile Home came out in Belgium and France in August 2012 and the French reviews were favorable (Allociné press rating: 3.5). Though a less positive review noted the scenario was "anemic," the French critics spoke of the film as "beautiful and tender," "finely written," possessed of a "subtlety" about a "delicate moment of life." This may be harder to grasp for English-language viewers, especially since the subtitles on the print screened are of the roughly-made kind, like Eighties Hong Kong ones, that often appear only for milliseconds.

Mobile Home debuted at Locarno and was released in Belgium and France in August 2012. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco Film Society's French Cinema Now series of October 2012.

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