Our most cinephilic francophiles head to the 2015 Melbourne French Film Festival. These are their reviews.
We continue our Melbourne French Film Festival Review Series with our guest blogger Antonia, and her review of Dany Boon’s most recent smash-hit comedy, Superchondriaque (2014).
I remember years ago watching a film on French TV. It was about a teenage girl from Paris who was sent to Provence to stay with friends because of a heart condition. At the beginning she fought with her friend’s brother, but then they started to fall in love, without telling each other. The day her parents came to take her back to Paris, the boyfriend raced across the garrigue to tell her how he felt but, before he could get there, came a cropper on his moto. Then it just so happened that a heart (you can guess whose) came available for her to have a transplant and she lived. It was a pretty average film, but it has stuck in my mind as a perfect example of that typical French film, where everyone is effortlessly stylish, and tragedy always strikes. Supercondriaque, Dany Boon’s latest work, is not that type of French film. It is about as far from that film as Brighton Bay cinema is from the Arc de Triomphe. It is a joyous romp that managed to stretch our credulity as far as it could go without actually snapping, and leave us with that special kind of euphoria that comes from having a bloody good laugh. The film opens with Romain Faubert (Dany Boon, who also wrote and directed) rushing to hospital in an ambulance on New Year’s Eve. It quickly becomes clear that far from being close to death, Romain is a massive hyperchondriac who drives his doctor of 18 years (Kad Merad) to distraction. Certainly a lot of comedy is extracted from the pair’s interactions, but Boon doesn’t leave it there. No spoilers, but let’s just say it all goes decidedly haywire, with Cherkastani rebel leaders, detention centres and Jean Valjean’s false passport. The plot has the feeling of something that came out of a late night drinking session that got out of hand and yet somehow the team pull it off. This is in no small measure due to the screen charisma of Dany Boon. He is not only a consummate physical comedian with perfect comic timing; he also seems to know just when to stop before something funny becomes tedious (a lesson quite a few modern comedians could do with learning). In this film his straight man is once again Kad Merad, who played the Provençal postal director sent to the North in Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis. Merad and Boon make an irresistible combination, their interplay having a natural rhythm and ease that make some of the more outrageous elements of the plot fade away in the memory. For all its hilarity (and it is hilarious, I was literally crying at various points), Supercondriaque is more than just a gagfest – the key line for me was Kad Merad’s doctor saying “I’m going to cure him of the biggest illness of the twenty-first century – loneliness”. If laughter is the best medicine, then this film could make superchondriaques of us all. Catch Superchondriaque at the festival here. By Antonia Mochan.