Welcome to the Larry411.com Guest Columnists! April 27, 2013
In my travels to the best film festivals in…
On Saturday, October 19, 2013 I attended the exciting US Premiere of Tour de Force at the 2013 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. The screening took place at the historic Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was a selection in the World Cinema Features section.
From acclaimed director Laurent Tuel comes Tour de Force (French/international title La grande boucle), a hilariously entertaining, emotional thrill ride -- artfully combining a wealth of genres including a fresh family comedy, traditional romance, classic sports farce, and a poignant coming of age story.
François Nouel (Clovis Cornillac), 40, set aside his Tour de France dreams long ago. Yes, he’s still an avid cyclist, but now spends his time selling them in a shop rather than racing them in the hills. His tolerant wife Sylvie (Élodie Bouchez) reluctantly puts up with his childish antics while rebellious teenage son Thomas (Paul Granier), like most boys his age, has little respect for his nerdy, embarrassing dad.
Nouel's employer, which happens to be a tour sponsor, enlists him as a volunteer for the next Tour de France. The timing couldn't be worse. For his family, this is the last straw. When will he grow up and realize he’s already over the hill, not about to cycle over it? Enter ex-sports pro Rémi Pletinckx (Bouli Lanners), whose own dreams of managing a Tour winner have drifted down into a bottle of booze. Rémi sees François as a last-chance ticket, and vice-versa, and the two hatch a plan to put François on the race course – if only riding the same route a day before the actual race. Nouel's cockeyed optimism is like an addictive drug, job and family be d*mned. And that’s just the basic premise that unfolds in the opening sequence…there’s more, so much more, to be revealed (literally) along the way.
There's a lot going on in Tour de Force, but it works in large part due to a magnificent screenplay from a team of six writers. The original story was written by Lyes Belaïdouni and Yohan Lévy along with producers Nicolas Souhami and Renaud Souhami. Bélaïdouni and Levy adapted it for the screen with Romain Protat and Matthieu Oullion. The literate script strikes just the right balance between classic farcical comedy and poignancy, often triggering laughter and tears within the same moment.
Star Clovis Cornillac is a legend in both cinema and television with over 100 projects in a 30+ year career that began at age 15. He’s been nominated three times for a César Award (France’s equivalent to the Oscars), winning one for Best Supporting Actor for 2004’s The Story of My Life. He’s onscreen in virtually every frame of this movie and is its heart and soul. His award-worthy performance carries it from start to finish. As the bumbling alcoholic manager with dreams of shepherding a team to national prominence, Bouli Lanners provides much of the film’s comic relief, however bittersweet. He’s a writer/director in his own right, with over 65 TV shows and movies under his belt. He has close to 20 wins and nominations, including a César nomination for Best Foreign Film as the writer/director/star of 2008’s Eldorado. He played Martial in Rust and Bone (2012), which received 58 worldwide wins and nominations.
Élodie Bouchez has won two Césars, as Most Promising Actress for Wild Reeds (1994) and Best Actress for 1998’s The Dreamlife of Angels. That picture also earned her Best Actress from the Cannes Film Festival, Lumiere Awards, and European Film Awards. Just 40, Bouchez has over 75 projects to her credit and her experience is on display here. Outstanding as anchor of the heartfelt coming of age storyline is dashing newcomer Paul Granier, in his very first film, who certainly holds his own in the presence of a cast of iconic French thespians. The huge ensemble cast is packed with talent. Notable performances are turned in by Ary Arbittan as grudge-holding cycling rival Tony Agnello, Bruno Lochet and Rose Caprais as Pierre and Tina Bojean, and André Marcon as Daniel Lafarge.
Tuel has over a dozen works to his credit – this is the fifth feature he’s directed and his first since 2009’s Ultimate Heist. In 2007, he was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the César Awards for Jean-Philippe. It’s apparent right from the opening frame that Tour de Force is characterized by stellar Hollywood-level production values due to a veteran creative team from top to bottom. Multi award-winning cinematographer Gilles Porte has worked on more than 30 small and big screen productions. This is his 14th feature in the DP seat. Porte’s When the Sea Rises (2004), which he also wrote and directed, earned him a nomination for European Discovery of the Year at the 2005 European Film Awards and several wins including a Prix Louis Delluc for Best First Film, the Audience Award at the Paris International Cinema Meeting, and France’s top honor – the César for Best First Film in 2005. Editor Antoine Vareille has worked on close to two dozen projects, including the 2007 Fox hit Hitman.
Porte’s breathtaking widescreen cinematography takes full advantage of the lush, dramatic landscape along the bicycle route. Exterior sequences are awash with sunshine, along with well-lit interiors -- every shot pops with sharp, crisp primary colors. Cameras placed on bikes, motorcycles, and in cars maneuvering ahead of, and behind, the cyclist(s) are used (as they are in actual cycling events) to great effect and make the race sequences truly exhilarating. From the low-lying farmland to the white-capped mountains, Tour de Force is a love letter to France with sparkling, picture postcard-perfect countryside shots throughout.
Composer André Manoukian has over a dozen TV and film productions to his credit – this is his fifth narrative feature. The original score is a blend of classic 50s/60s European comedy with the intrigue of James Bond-style themes. The soundtrack is liberally sprinkled with third-party needle drop material – not necessarily hit songs that Westerners would recognized but catchy tunes nonetheless.
I recommend seeing this as soon as possible, as Tour de Force is just ripe for a Hollywood remake. Despite the script's complexity, the multilayered themes tackled in the film are familiar and comfortable – particularly the iconic “zero to hero” storyline and irresistibly touching father/son bonding narrative. Of course, the sports element is central but you don’t have to be a cycling fan to love this movie. The passion with which the filmmakers and cast approached the material is palpable, making Tour de Force a joyous marvel.
NOTE: I selected Tour de Force as one of my Top 7 Foreign Language Narratives from the 2013 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. It was produced by Olivier Delbosc, Martin Meissonnier, Nicolas Souhami, and Renaud Souhami for Bago Films and Fidélité Films. Tour de Force was produced in association with Wild Bunch and is a France 2 Cinéma co-production with the participation of Orange Cinéma Séries, TF1 Films, and France Télévisions, along with the support of Région Languedoc-Roussillon and Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC), in partnership with Conseil Général des Hautes-Pyrénées. The film has distribution deals for several territories, including Belgium, Taiwan and France through Wild Bunch Distribution.
The official trailer (in French) is below along with a behind the scenes clip, making of featurette, stills, behind the scenes photos, and shots from public appearances.
Official Facebook: facebook.com/LaGrandeBoucle.lefilm
Distributor Site: wildbunchdistribution.com
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In my travels to the best film festivals in…