Wednesday, 27 July 2011

On Tour

***
The rather brilliant Mathieu Amalric co-wrote and directed this story of a troupe of American burlesque performers on tour in France. Amalric himself plays the tour manager. Great news, because ever since seeing the powerhouse performance of his left eye in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly I’m always keen to see it (and the rest of his body) perform.

His directing style is loose. Improvisation is king and by this route he achieves a fresh and realistic feel. While the burlesque artistes are professionals - for all of them - this is their first acting gig. He draws pretty powerful performances from some of them too.

Ex-TV producer Joachim Zand (Amalric) has a train wreck of a life. He returns to his home country from the USA, bringing with him a bevy of burlesque performers, drinking, laughing, and cavorting around the coast of France. His job is, effectively, herding cats. While attempting to start anew, by means of this tour, he faces a lifetime of baggage catching up with him. For example, there is an uncomfortable plot thread involving his two estranged sons.

The burlesque itself is very entertaining, albeit more comical (and often spectacle) than sexy. The likes of Mimi le Meaux and Dirty Martini deliver knowing, contemporary twists on an old-fashioned art form. The routines are shot from offstage and from the very backs of theatres (i.e. from the point of view of those on tour) and done so evocatively you can almost smell the nipple tassel glue.

Although the film brilliantly evokes the spirit of Cassavetes and the Nouvelle Vague I can’t help but think the plot is a little slight. I feel I never really understood Joachim. But being something of a wounded animal he does have his guard up a lot so maybe that is intentional. Saying all that, Amalric is a undeniable talent to keep an eye on. Or maybe even two.


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