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PostPosted: Fri Mar 12, 2021 9:26 pm 
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GUILLAUME BRAC: À L'ABORDAGE! (2020) - RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA 2021

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STILL FROM A L'ABORDAGE!

When things don't go the way you want it's not so bad

I have written about Brac's several films featuring Vincent Macaigne, 2021's World Without Women (FCN) and 2014 Tonnerre (R-V) and his episodic and Rohmeresque 2017 July Tales (R-V). Brac has an element of Rohmer in his young men and women looking for connection in summer settings. But the Rohmer dialogue and neat structure are missing.

À L’Abordage! is a return to fiction filmmaking for director Guillaume Brac, whose last release was the feature documentary Treasure Island (2018). But it represents a continuation of a theme which is evident throughout much of his work – that brief escape from reality afforded by holidays. Here, much of this and that. There is everything from a car accident to karaoke. The new twist is the main vacationers in this town with a mediocre camping ground are two black city boys among all the white people.

The strapping Félix (Eric Nantchouang) meets Alma (Asma Messaoudene) one night and they spend several hours together. She goes on vacation with her family. Félix, a caretaker for older people, discusses this with the old lady. This is the introduction to genial boundary-crossing, because it's a serious talk. He persuades his pal Chérif (Salif Cissé), a big, chubby guy who works in a supermarket to take five days off, and they ride-share with Édouard (Édouard Sulpice), a typical middle class young French white guy. He was expecting girls, and is very annoyed. But camaraderie soon crops up between the three guys. An accident forces Édouard to stay at the campground too: it'll take a week for the parts to arrive.

Alma is anything but pleased when Félix shows up without prior warning at the vacation spot where she's staying in a house with her parents, and they're in conflict for the next couple of days. However, Chérif meets up with Héléna (Ana Blagojevic), an attractive young mother with a delightful tiny baby. She's been left there by her husband, because he made the decision to start a new pizza restaurant while his wife had a baby. He's off tending to an emergency at the restaurant. Chérif likes taking care of the baby and hanging out with Héléna. By the time this is all over he realizes being with Héléna counts more than the baby.

There is a small trace of turnaround and dreams they didn't know they had coming true. But essentially Brac's interest is a pleasant randomness. It is surely a very big not-so-hidden point that nobody pays any attention to the fact that Félix and Chérif are black. There are snooty, egocentric young guys in all directions. But they would be there anyway. And is forgiven. Even Alma apologizes to Félix, though he realizes they weren't meant to be together.

The title, a traditional cry of French pirates about to board a boat, is taken from the comedy routine of a young woman being a clown in town for kids dressed as a pirate. She will turn up at the end after Félix, on what he plans is his last night on the trip, has slept outside in the open and Chérif has spent the night with someone different this time. Édouard, not the posh boy anymore, is cleaning latrines to earn money to pay for fixing his mom's car.

À L'Abordage! ("All Hands on Deck"), 95 mins., debuted Feb. 25, 2020 at the Berlinale. Eight other international festival showings including Reykjavik, Odessa, Bordeaux, Busan, Thessaloniki and Goteborg. Screened online at home for this review as part of the Mar. 2021 all virtual UniFrance-FLC Rendez-Vous with French Cinema on Mar. 12, 2021.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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