How would you react if you your family thought that you were gay, it is time that you "came out", and that "you looked rather cute with that boy"? Yet, the only gay thing about you is your long hair (go figure), your fondness of masturbating while taking a shower, and the fact that your best friend is, well, not the most masculine guy in town. Such is the dilemma which Charly (Romain Torres) has to face while being on a summer vacation with his family in the French produced Cote d'Azur (2005). Now add to the mix Charly's romantic Mom (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), his sexually frustrated Dad (Gilbert Melki), and his ready to explore sister (Sabrina Seyvecou), and voila you have a delightful French comedy where everything that could go wrong goes…terribly wrong!!
Put aside the fact that I am extremely biased when it comes down to anything Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is involved with and I think it is fare to say that I had very low expectations, if any, from the creators of Cote d'Azur. Aside from the Label Europa Cinemas Award which the film won at the Berlin Film Festival in 2005 Code d'Azur has been practically unknown outside of his native France. The story line of this film also hardly suggests a production of exceptional originality; if anything, I suppose I was expecting a few laughs and approximately ninety minutes of touchy French satire. So, imagine my surprise when I experienced a film which not only put a big smile on my face but also further solidified my conviction that funny gay people live outside of Hollywood! What a shocker, huh, Mr. Williams!!
Cote d'Azur is a surprisingly well made comedy feature relying mostly on standard clichés which in the hands of mainstream Hollywood producers are likely to have spurred a story saturated with predictable characters and a sugary "feel-good" finale. In the hands of Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, however, Cote d'Azur (or Crustaces et coquillages as this film is known in France) ends up being a fresh dose of unbridled humor which at least as far as I am concerned delivered a nice and edgy feel to a story with some limited potential. In fact, Cote d'Azur is an excellent example of the greatly favored in France genre "comedie-dramatique"- an interesting amalgam of witty laughs often complimented by a more serious texture with a meaningful social message(s).
With an excellent cast that certainly brings a great deal of believability Cote d'Azur is also a profoundly French film. None of the characters are straightforward, the script veers-off in a direction largely unexpected, and the finale is as liberating as possible. In addition, the two directors of Cote d'Azur have added up a lovely scene which somewhat links the missing pieces in this film by providing a spectacular epilog which one is more likely to see in a musical, not a standard comedy feature. But there is nothing conventional about Cote d'Azur to begin with, it is simply a well told story about romantic yearnings and shared love reminding us that there are places under the sun where people are not afraid of expressing their feelings.
Cote d'Azur was nominated for the Audience Award at the European Film Awards (Best Actor for Jean-Marc Barr) and is the winner of the Label Europa Cinemas Award at the Berlin International Film Festival 2005.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's Cote d'Azur appears to have been mastered from a secondary source and therefore there is some mild "ghosting" when viewed on a progressive set-up. With this said, the transfer looks quite good as both contrast and colors appear very well-handled. The print is generally free of any damage or additional distracting elements. There is a slight dose of edge-enhancement which especially during daylight scenes is noticeable. In addition, during a few of the night scenes the print offers some mildly annoying "soft-spots". Nevertheless the presentation is most definitely satisfying and I would have given this release a higher mark had it not been for the fact that the print appears to be non-progressive.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Strand Releasing have provided a French Dolby 2.0 track with removable English subtitles which sounds quite good. I would have been a much more convincing presentation however if we were given a nice and solid 5.1 track especially considering the fact that there is plenty of music in this feature.
Aside from the original French theatrical trailer for Cote d'Azur and a few trailers for other upcoming Strand releases there is nothing else to be found on this disc. I am a bit disappointed by the lack of extras as certainly a nice commentary would have been appreciated by many.
Great script, great acting, and an excellent direction transform Cote d'Azur into an easily recommendable feature. The downside of this presentation is the fact that Strand Releasing do not appear to have realized the potential this charming little film has. Either way, I am going to recommend Cote d'Azur to those of you looking for a light comedy with an extra dose of spice.