Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Another free French film this Friday: Carole Bouquet in Brigitte Roüan's TRAVAUX

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy has another treat in store for moviegoers who enjoy reclining on the grass as they feast on food (bring your own) while watching a good film. This Friday, July 17, at 8:30 pm in Tompkins Square Park (between Avenues A and B and 7th and 10th Streets in Manhattan) is a FREE showing of yet another French comedy that has had no U.S. theatrical release, save an appearance at the Chicago Intl. Film Fest in 2005 and here at the FSLC's annual Rendez-vous with French Cinema in 2006.

Titled Travaux, on sait quand ça commence... in its original French, it is alternately called either Housewarming or Work in its two English translations. Either English title works well enough for this blissfully silly and enchanting movie. Work introduces us to a high-powered lawyer (the exquisite Carole Bouquet shown at top and just above) whose caseload is made up of illegal immigrants seeking refuge in France. When the lawyer decides to make some improvements on her family's apartment, she finds herself with many of these immigrants doubling as her work force.

From the very first scene, which shows Ms Bouquet's character in court doing the lawyer's typical song-and-dance (in this case it is an actual dance - in which, finally, she literally flies across the courtroom to give one of the presiding judges a little chuck under his chin), it is clear that we're in surreal territory. This is thanks to director/co-writer Brigitte Roüan's ability to tackle a subject as "fraught" as immigration with a light touch that entertains, even as it manages to score a number of smart points -- about the entitled class, as much as about the illegals, and about the vagaries of love and lust and how they combine with raising a family.

Once construction starts on the apartment, the characters are in a mostly continual state of amusing chaos (those of us who have undergone renovation on a home in which we are still living will understand and enjoy the spectacle even more), and Roüan keeps her camera and her characters in what seems like near-constant motion. Look behind the foreground's action at almost any time, and you're likely to catch sight of something -- a movement, a character, a little touch -- that will put a smile of your face. The supporting cast is made up of actors from diverse locations -- South America to Italy to Africa -- and of diverse appearance. I recognized one of my favorite, little-seen actors, Marcial Di Fonzo Bo (shown at right, below, from She's One of Us and The Man I Love), as the foreman on the job, but much of the rest of the cast is new to me.

Oh-- except for one handsome fellow who make an appearance at the finale. Ms Roüan indulges in a bit of stunt casting here, in a way similar to that used in the current Italian film Quiet Chaos and earlier (2004) in Yvan Attal's use of Johnny Depp in Happily Ever After. These instances work well because the actor, his image and the use of both in the film combine to make a perfect little statement. Actually, just about everything in WORK works. As with last week's Film on the Green, Ma vie en l'air, this may be your only opportunity to catch this delightful movie on U.S. shores -- free and al fresco, to boot. Let's hope the off-and-on showers currently predicted toward the end of the week leave Friday sunny and pleasant. Enjoy!

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