Comme un Avion (The Sweet Escape) – Bruno Podalydès

UnknownThere’s a definite whiff of Wes Anderson about actor/director Bruno Podalydès Comme Un Avion, the first film where he pushes aside his younger sibling Denis to take on the lead role himself to great effect. It a delightful film, full of subtle humour which swings between absurd, surreal comedy and Jacques Tatiesque gentle slapstick.  There’s essentially nothing new about the existential crisis of a man in his fifties who sets of on a journey of self discovery.  But Podalydès has taken the classic road movie and exchanged the highway for the waterway allowing him to make best use of the beautiful, poetic setting while the river’s steady flow sets the pace of the action.  Sandrine Kiberlain, Agnès Jaoui, and of course, Denis Podalydès complete the excellent cast. And there’s even an unexpected bonus with a cameo appearance from veteran actor Pierre Arditi. Comme Un Avion is one of those rare films where audiences will leave the cinema feeling genuinely uplifted.

Michel (Bruno Podalydès), a graphic artist who works with his brother Remi (Denis Podalydès), has always been fascinated by the French airplane postal service even though he has never piloted an aircraft himself. By chance, he comes across a photo of a kayak and is struck by the similarity to an airplane fusillage. He secretly buys a self-build kayak, puts it together and dreams of setting off alone on a long journey.  When his wife Rachel (Kiberlaine) discovers his plan, she encourages him to go ahead and realise his ambition. After much preparation, Michel’s kayak finally hits the water and he leaves on his adventure.  But not long after casting off, he stops as a small riverside restaurant where he meets the owner Laetitia (Jaoui), her beautiful daughter Mila (Vimala Pons) and an assorted bunch of characters who spend the day pottering around the restaurant, drinking absinthe. Michel immediately feels at home and has difficulty tearing himself away to complete the journey.
Podalydès makes it all look so easy. An an actor, he’s a perfect fit for the slightly overweight, slightly neurotic, slightly eccentric Michel who minutely plans the equipment he needs for the trip while ignoring more obvious essentiels like a map of the river. Too many tics and mannerisms and he would be weird and unlikeable; too few and he runs the risk of appearing stupid.  As a director, he has a talent for bringing a light comic touch to dark subjects and here he orchestrates the cast of colourful characters without resorting to cliche or caricature. Even the slapstick is underplayed with Podalydès knowing exactly when to stop. Jaoui seems to relish her role as the kindhearted Laetitia who falls for Michel. The relationship between the two is uncomplicated and entirely natural and it’s great to see an older actor in the role of an attractive, intelligent sexy woman. After 9 month stretch and Elle l’Adore, Kiberlain once again shows her innate comic talent.
Podalydès last film, Granny’s Funeral, was a minor hit in France.  Comme un Avion should make a bigger splash.





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