Saturday, August 2, 2014

Bicycling with Moliere (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Bicycling with Moliere

Philippe Le Guay (The Women on the 6th Floor) delivers another hit with the light and ebullient "Bicycling with Moliere". The film co-written by actor Fabrice Luchini (who plays the irascible Serge) is an Odd Couple vignette about two men who know each other so well they oscillate between affection and bitterness with each other, not to mention resentment and ribaldry.

Smooth silver fox Gauthier (Lambert Wilson) wishes to take a sabbatical from TV acting, traveling to the picturesque French hideaway of Île de Ré to talk to his old friend Serge.

Gauthier presses him to help bring Moliere to life, by acting in "The Misanthope" as Philinte.

The difficult needle-like Serge wants no part of it.

Gauthier persuades his cantankerous friend to at least read the script. Serge reluctantly agrees, then demands that he play the main character Alceste instead of a "minor" role.

Gauthier proposes that they alternate the roles and Serge concedes.

Throughout the film, Serge throws sarcasm at the inflated and George Hamilton-like actor while he tries to hold his own, via a scarf around the neck. Gauthier gets into a violent fight with a taxi driver (Stéphan Wojtowicz) and feels out-done by Serge in his pursuit of the vivacious Francesca (Maya Sansa)

Gauthier's egotistical pratfalls become more comical by the second.

This is a bon-vivant who is used to getting his way. Despite his celebrity role, he is no master thespian.

The tension, albeit of the tickling variety is in watching the contrast: the debonair Gauthier against the baggy and turtle-like Serge who also makes an excellent Beckett character. He accuses his friend of becoming a vain sellout, while Gauthier counters that he has no relevance to the audience and no persona.

In matters of Cupid, the film overtly echoes "Jules and Jim" with its sheepish love triangle.

While the drama expressed is often in kid gloves, there is some loud and physical stuff here, with Gauthier being a self obsessed prick even though he does care for his friend.

While at first we think Serge the shy hermit, under the brash cuts of Gauthier, he becomes more and more enraged at the parading of his friend.

Serge becomes the better actor.

This is a swift and  carbonated comedy that shows two affectionate rivals doing anything they can for their egos.

Each character in his own way is selfish, each is passionate.

The upper hand of poetry may well go to Serge, however. While the tanned and handsome Gauthier is dazzled by the stage lights of Alceste, Serge is left on a desolate beach to recite Moliere's lines in a charmed, but wistful urgency.

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