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Official competition off to sassy start with Mathieu Amalric's 'On Tour'

Text by Jon FROSCH

Latest update : 2010-05-16

Opening the official competition was "Tournée" (On Tour) by French filmmaker and actor Mathieu Amalric - a burlesque, fleshy and boozy offering. Here are a few reasons why the team likes it. And watch Amalric's interview (video).

The official Cannes competition opened on a note of mischief on Thursday with Mathieu Amalric's "Tournée" (On Tour) or the 'French burlesque movie', as it has been dubbed by English-speaking journalists at the festival. Though this is Amalric's first time at the official competition as director, the actor is so well regarded for his wild-eyed intensity and offbeat humour that expectations for the film were high. Indeed, by any reasonable standard, Tournée qualifies as a strong start for this year's line-up.

Amalric the filmmaker:

Mange ta soupe - Eat your soup (1997), Le Stade de Wimbledon - Wimbledon Stadium (2001) and La Chose publique - Public Affairs (2003, selected for the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes).

Amalric the actor:

Comment je me suis disputé...(ma vie sexuelle) - My Sex Life...or How I Got Into an Argument (director Arnaud Desplechin, 1997)

Rois et Reine - Kings and Queens (Best actor Cesar, director Arnaud Desplechin, 2005)

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Best actor Cesar, director Julian Schnabel, 2008)

Quantum of Solace (director Marc Forster, 2008)

Telling the story of a washed-up French producer (played by Amalric himself) on tour in France with a troupe of American burlesque dancers, this witty, affectionate film starts out as a bawdy backstage chronicle and ends up posing some intriguing questions about art, freedom, and family. Though Amalric's character is the central figure, he shines the spotlight most brightly on the ladies. All are real American burlesque performers with names like Kitten on the Keys and Dirty Martini, and they turn out to be a cinematic goldmine: fleshy, boozy, and brimming with sass and soul.
The film gets mileage out of its culture clash premise (the girls churn out very broken French and transform even the stuffiest place they go into a rowdy performance art fete), but the director's nimble, spontaneous camera also catches unexpected moments of loneliness, flirtation, and hostility among the dancers, their not-so-fearless leader, and his two young sons who accompany the troupe in the film's second half.
If the film, as charming and sharply observational as it is, eventually starts to wear out its welcome, it is because of a certain lack of tension: Amalric clearly loves his characters, but his story is looser than it has to be, never making it entirely clear what's at stake for these outsiders trying to build a life around a marginalized art form. The final ten minutes feel indulgent, even unnecessary, like a bad after party following a highly enjoyable night out on the town.


Date created : 2010-05-13