Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Film Fest: Crooning Moment

I loved this charmer.

I laughed out loud a few times, felt sad a few times and was not sure what was going on much of the time. Still, it worked.

A French singer, who was a one-hit wonder 30 years ago, is hired from his dead-end job as a hotel clerk to sing his one song at a birthday party in Lebanon. One of his few remaining fans, the wife a wealthy coffee baron, loves the song and has fond memories of Bruno Caprice’s visit during the war-torn years of the ‘70s.
Bruno has no such memories. He just wants a check and a change from his dreary life.

Patrick Chesnaisis a real presence as Bruno, a washed up, yet oddly dignified sad sack. Like many French leading men, he is several kilometers from handsome, but somehow he is a babe magnet. Eventually, the aging singer hooks up with a Julia Roberts look-alike. This phenomena is inspirational to American males; it’s like beautiful French women always forget to wear their glasses.

Like many French movies, a tight plot is a superficial accessory. The film is more like a series of skits loosely strung together as different characters dance in the spotlight. A scene of Jerry Lewis-like slapstick can be followed by surprising melancholy. Hints at dark Lebanese history and kidnapping are followed by Guys and Dolls caricatures. Serious songs share the stage with jingles and bad poetry.

The setting in Lebanon was a revelation. Those of us used to seeing this place on CNN after war, terrorism or mayhem would probably not consider a visit to the mid-eastern nation as part of our bucket list. Sure, it’s a movie, but I found myself on the Internet checking flights. City or country, Lebanon looked great to me.

Melodrama Habibi may be a stretch for some: It has subtitles. It is quirky. But it was fun, and it had heart. Evidently others have found the crazy stew appetizing, the film recently bagged the audience award at the Brussels European Film Fest.

Get a ticket to hear Bruno Caprice croon.
— Bob Carson
Wednesday, March 25, 6:50 p.m.; Thursday March 26, 2:40 p.m.; Friday, March 27, 9:20 a.m. France, Lebanon, 98 minutes Subtitles

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