de Ré is sort of like the French Martha’s Vineyard. It is pretty dead during the off-season, but
if you wait long enough you are sure to spot someone famous. Gauthier Valence is such a celebrity. He hopes to recruit a retired colleague for a
production of The Misanthrope in
Philippe Le Guay’s Cycling with Molière (trailer here), which screens as
a Spotlight selection of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
success of his medical drama even embarrasses Valence. Serge Tanneur’s career went in the opposite
direction following a legal spat with a producer. Retiring to his late uncle’s ramshackle house
on the isle, Tanneur has given up all acting ambitions until Valence comes
calling. Of course, the TV doctor wants
to play Alceste. He is the star. Yet, when Tanneur balks, Valence suggests
they alternate between the lead role and Philinte. Neither saying yes or no, Tanneur keeps him
on the hook during a week of trial rehearsals.
Sometimes they click, just like the old days, but there will be
to Tanneur is so fitting, Le Guay barely gives it nodding acknowledgement. Instead, he concentrates on the actors’ craft
and the demands of the verse. Frankly,
even after watching the film it is hard to say whether Valence and Tanneur are
friends, frienemies, or rivals, which is quite a rich ambiguity. There are some exquisitely bittersweet
scenes, as when the old thesps do a reading with Zoé, the island’s young
aspiring porn star. Yes, they even run
lines while biking. That is how island folk
seem to roll, after all.
Cycling is extremely accessible, it
is about as French as films get. Le Guay’s
screenplay, based on an idea co-developed with co-lead Fabrice Luchini, has
considerable wit, but it is defined by a sense of longing and regret. It also rather tastefully avoids big pay-off learning
moments, instead remaining true to its characters’ flaws and foibles.
(whose recent credits include Laurent Tirard’s Molière and Le Guay’s charming Women on the 6th Floor) is overdue for a major American retrospective,
but Cycling would be the perfect film
to build it around. He is completely convincing
as a frustrated actor doing a mostly convincing Alceste. His facility with language and brittle
insecurities all feel right. Lambert
Wilson is perfectly fine as Valence, playing off Luchini quite well in some key
scenes. Yet, Maya Sansa nearly steals
the show as Francesca, the Italian divorcee who attracts the attention of both
men. Likewise, Laurie Bordesoules makes
the most of her brief but charming appearances as Zoé.
never really reinvents the wheel, but it is a
refreshingly elegant and literate film.
The scenery is quite pleasant, while Luchini’s work still has real
bite. Recommended for all regular
patrons of French cinema, Cycling with Molière
screens again tomorrow (4/25) and Sunday (4/28) during this year’s Tribeca Film
Labels: Fabrice Luchini, French Cinema, Philippe Le Guay, Tribeca '13