Saturday, June 25, 2011

On Tour (Tournée) (BAMcinemaFest)

Despite some dodgy notes hit by a cast of first-time-acting burlesque dancers and a script that at its worst gives itself over to bouts of corny humor and worn out situations, "On Tour" ends up working in the end. It is anchored by the beautifully grainy and composition/focus attentive 35mm photography by Christophe Beacaume and a solid performance on both sides of the camera by Mathieu Amalric, not to mention a clutch acting job by the most prominently featured dancer Miranda Colclasure (better known as Mimi Le Meaux). The film's angle on its main subject is hardly philosophical, but that's no matter. It finds other things to look into, and all-in-all ends up an enjoyable film, at times more blissful and at others more plodding.

Joachim Zand (Mathieu Amalric), we come to learn, is alienated from his father, brother, and wife, and not entirely favored by his kids either. He's pissed off a lot of people, and it's not hard to see why: he desires to be in control at all times, constantly and perhaps arbitrarily telling bartenders and hotel managers to turn down the music or the television. He's put together an act in America consisting of stripteasers such as Kitten on the Keys (Suzanne Ramsey), Julie Atlas Muz (Julie Ann Muz), and Dirty Martini (Linda Marraccini), to add to the aforementioned Mimi Le Meaux, for whom he has a greater amount of affection. Now he's taking them on tour (hence the title) in France. This trip is ostensibly just to conduct performances, but when he has a hard time holding down event spaces, he gets around to seeing his family, as well as an estranged dancer whom he mistreated some time back. A lot of the film's strength comes from its examination of Joachim, who's trying to manage a lot and just barely keeping things together.

The film spends a lot of time also with the dancers, lingering on their stripteases (though with skilled camera placement, perhaps for a bit too long) and showing their off-time. Of the girls, it spends the most time following Mimi. She's lonely, both a part of the crew and somewhat isolated, having disappointing trysts and perhaps loving Joachim a little bit. We see her often in close-ups, sometimes of her numerous tattoos, sometimes of her (theoretically) masked face. Though she's notably histrionic at times, this is strong work by Cloclasure, a product of the direction that won Amalric the Prix de la mise en scéne at Cannes last year.

"On Tour" I don't think has the makings of a great film. However, judging from the audience I saw it with, for more than a few people it will have the makings for a great time. Though some parts of the movie are trite, some scenes are actually pretty funny. And you'd have to be allergic to fun to not be overjoyed by the film's final shot. Concluding the last passage of the film (which has an amiable, mellow vibe), it provides a fitting end to both the section and also the motif of which it is a part. This ending (apparently not the only great closer in Amalric's career), most likely among the strongest this year will have to offer, deserves to be seen by audiences, and I hope that a distributor takes heed and purchases it, along with the solid film that came before. B

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