Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mathieu Demy's AMERICANO: a Frenchman in Southern California & Mexico. Ay, ay, ay!

What happens to French filmmakers when they come to Southern California (and then, god help them, head for Mexico)? I ask because I have noted some very talented Frenchmen like Jacques Demy (with his Model Shop), Erick Zonca (with Julia) and now Demy's own son, Mathieu Demy, fall prey to -- what is it? -- the come-to-LA-LA-land-and-lose-your-marbles syndrome? Then move on to Mexico, as do Zonca and Demy fils, and go completely bonkers. (Demy père managed to stay in L.A., as I recall.)

Truth to tell, this is the younger Demy's first full-length film as writer and director (and star, too: he's shown above), so I am much more familiar with this fellow via his often excellent acting. Most recently he's been seen here as the dad in the fine movie Tomboy and on VOD in the very interesting, student-as-prostitute tale, Student Services (Mes chères études). What to make of his film-making debut? Whew! Of all the movies TrustMovies saw at this year's Rendez-vous With French Cinema, where AMERICANO made its New York debut last March, this was the stinker of the bunch.

The movie begins with Mr. Demy's character cuming (yes, he's having sex) and it ends with him on the phone to his girlfriend (the highly wasted Chiara Mastroianni, and I mean the role, not the actress) telling her, "I'm coming" (meaning he's returning to France). I don't know that the joke is intentional, but I would dearly like to think so, for it is just about the the only amusement the movie provides. Otherwise, this tale of a repressed man named Martin (played by the consistently sad-eyed Demy), who comes to L.A. to pack up the belongings of his recently deceased but long estranged mother, is a bogus, pretentious fiasco. After spending a few minutes with Martin, I found the man so ridiculous, so willfully stupid that I just wanted to slap him silly. This also seems to be the feeling of many of the other characters in the film. In fact, Martin gets slapped, beaten and knocked about so much (and so deliber-ately on his character's part) that you begin to wonder if Demy isn't going after the torture-me-some-more mantle of Mel Gibson.

Also involved in this mess are good actors like Salma Hayek (above, left: a mystery girl who turns sentimental and has a connection to another character we've seen), Geraldine Chaplin (below, right, and wasted as a one-note cliche who, at least, gets to slap Demy) and Carlos Bardem (two photos up, at left, as the Hayek character's pimp/protector, who really gives Martin a pummeling -- or ten). None of these actors can begin to latch on to anything approaching a real character, thanks to the pre-determined whims of the very poor screenplay (Demy again). Really: I don't know what to think. The wisest, kindest thing might be to proclaim happiness that the filmmaker has now gotten Americano out of his system and can move on to, well, just about anything else.

The movie -- 90 minutes (but they feel like 180), from MPI Pictures -- opens this Friday, June 15, in New York City at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

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