THE FRENCH THEY ARE A FUNNY RACE: Part Trois, Movies at the Col-Coa Film Festival: Mea Culpa and Turning Tide


mea-culpaAt the end of Mea Culpa, the exhilarating and electrifying slam bang, no thank you ma’am, action thriller written by Fred Cavaye, Guillaume Lemans and Olivier Marchal and directed by Cavaye (all of which, especially when it comes to Cavaye. is probably a pretty redundant statement when it comes down to it), I turned to the person sitting beside me and said, “Well, I don’t know about you, but I am utterly exhausted”.
Mea Culpa is a movie in which every actor must have lost about fifty pounds by the time the shoot was over since half the time all they do is run. They run away from crooks at a bull fight into an deserted marketplace; they run away from crooks at a night club cum brothel (yeah, yeah, cum brothel, I get it); they run after crooks at an ambush at a police headquarters; they run away from crooks on a train (unless they are running to get on the train to stop the crooks).
I mean, these guys really run. A lot. I’m still exhausted just thinking about it.

 

The basic idea of Mea Culpa is that the little boy of a disgraced former cop (or flick as they say in France), now a security guard, sees a gangland murder in the closed for repairs bathroom at a bull fight arena. Knowing the son will never be safe as long as the bad guys are alive, the father joins forces with his ex-partner to take out these nasty pieces of work first.

 

And fair enough, I say.

 

The two leads are played by he of the hangdog look Vince Lindon as the ex-police officer (who I first discovered later in his career in the must be seen La Mustache) and Gilles Lellouche as the non-ex police officer (who I also discovered later in his career in the also must be seen Tell No One, but c’mon, give me a break—I’m not French you know, it’s not like I had the opportunity to discover them any sooner).

 

LeLouche also ran around a lot in Cavaye’s earlier thriller Point Blank (here comes that exhaustion again).

 

Lindon and Lellouche (nice bit of consonance there, I must say) have great chemistry together, which is a plus, almost a necessity, since they play types straight out of a 1930’s movie—two men whose relationship is far more intense than the ones they have with the women in their lives and, in fact, the only real reason why women were often around in some of these early example of buddy films was to reassure the audience that the characters weren’t gay for each other (though many in the audience still had their doubts).

 

The two L’s (as I think I’ll call them) go around constantly looking like they are in a depression of existential proportions (well, it is a French film after all), with pain in their eyes for sorrows they hide from those around them (dealt with in flashbacks that tell the tale of what Lindon’s character did to be thrown off the force).

 

And both L’s have the faces for the roles. Not handsome, I would say, but definitely world weary enough to be so sexy, they don’t need to look like Brad Pitt.

 

The crooks are the bad guys de jour in European films these days—immigrants, here Eastern Europeans, who want to take over the local drug trade. Though their empire seems to be growing, they’re not the brightest of bulbs. They’re the kind of villains who shoot first and think later, which means they kill someone in the men’s room of an arena holding tons of potential witnesses while later opening fire in a crowded night club with security cameras recording their every misdeed (not to mention what they do on a crowded passenger train to call attention to themselves).

 

It’s a good thing they are lousy shots as well since they manage to not only miss the good guys almost every time, they can’t even seem to hit panicked and fleeing civilians in quarters as crowded as a train compartment, even when using AK-47’s.

 

The story itself is over the top and even ridiculous at times (take that killing in the loo for example). It’s one of those movies where a constant stream of mano a mano bits of fisticuffs go on far longer than any human could survive, yet those involved get up with nary a mark on them. And it’s also one of those movies where the writers seem to go out of their way to get their characters into no exit situations (like a toilet) from which they always manage to find an exit.

 

(There’s this one point where Lellouche can only get to a stopped train by walking down a gravelly hill so steep you know he’s going to fall halfway there and all I could think was whether Cavaye was sniggling in sociopathic glee as he came up with more and more ludicrous obstacles to put his heroes through. I mean, when Lellouch looks down that vicious incline, I half expected him to yell out, “Aw, c’mon, I mean, c’mon”.)

 

But the movie’s also exciting and riveting.   It’s a grand thrill of an action ride that just keeps building and building.

 

Is it anything else than that? I doubt it.

 

But I didn’t care.

 

And I also don’t think it has to be.

 

It’s just too much fun as it is.

 

With a neat twist of an ending that I didn’t see coming.

 

 

turning-tide-coplcoa-winnerI don’t know what it is today with filmmakers wanting to get their heroes out to sea (and I don’t mean metaphorically, but literally in a boat in the ocean). There’s been Life of Pi and All is Lost and Captain Phillips and A Hijacking.

 

Now we have Turning Tide, the story of one Yann Kermedec who, at the last minute, has to take over from another skipper who has broken his leg, and captain a yacht in the Vendee Globe, a round the world solo (with an emphasis on the solo part) race. But when he has to stop to repair a rudder that gets damaged, he starts again without realizing he has a stowaway on board (that’s what I mean when I said, emphasis on the solo part).

 

The story then revolves around what Kermedec is going to do. Well, that’s not quite right. A little bit of the story is about that. An equal amount, if not more, is really devoted to the nuts and bolts of the sailing part and some minor sturm and drang going on at the home front.

 

And maybe that’s why the movie didn’t work as well for me as it did for others (it’s a real crowd pleaser wherever it goes, winning the audience favorite at the Col-Coa festival). The details of racing a yacht with all the modern gimcracks and thingamabobs available and the drama surrounding Yann’s friends, loves and family was interesting at first, but kinda got a little old fast.

 

As for the stowaway story, well, the only interesting aspect of that part of the drama is finding out what Yann is going to do at the climax. But it takes more than awhile to reach the finish line and since there is really only one ending that would be remotely satisfying, there’s no real surprise here.

 

I found the movie to be a bit of a drudge to get through if truth be told. Oh, well.

 

With a screenplay by Christophe Offenstein (who also directed), Jean Cottin, Pierre Marcel and Frederic Petitjean, which may seem just a bit too many for what is in many ways a rather simple story.

 

It stars Francois Cluzet as Yann.   He’s very good.

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