Well, My French Film Festival is drawing to a close. On Critics Associated we have done our best to give you a good overview of the fare on offer. And just as the curtains close, we have just enough time to give you one last piece of our mind – or at least of our opinions. Up on the proverbial slab for examination is Tristesse Club or Fool Circle, as it is known in English – a typically French comedy with a distinct sense of sadness and irony running through it.
Our heroes are two brothers who are diametrically opposed: Leon – ex tennis pro, ladies’ man, failed husband and father, and Bruno – awkward, socially inept but owner of a successful online dating business. They don’t see much of each other but they are forced to come back together when they receive the news that their father has died. Now, if the brothers already didn’t get on with each other particularly well (and they didn’t), their dislike of their father is even worse. However a funeral is a funeral and they set off to the deepest darkest Savoie to pay their last respects. Except, once they arrive, they have a lot more waiting for them than one would expect – a half-sister they never knew the existence of, a lake full of secrets, an empty house full of memories. But interestingly enough, no corpse and no funeral…
Well, I started watching this film not knowing what to expect. The theme was familiar but the problem was that Death at a Funeral had done this kind of thing infinitely better back in 2007, so this little number really had to pull out all the stops to step out of its shadow. And kudos to director Vincent Mariette, for he managed to take the theme and make it very, very French. And it works. The socially inept Bruno is clearly the element of comedy but while he is undoubtedly funny he is never made a laughing stock, which is the temptation – and more often than not the big mistake – with this kind of character. Bruno is just a collection of all those awkward moments we all have; he just tends to have them a bit more often than most. And that means his comic moments provide a hearty giggle when the time is right but he is never the buffoon. The balance is, all in all, perfect.
And the same delicate balance is struck with the other main characters as well. Leon is the epitome of the annoying and slightly lecherous husband who can never quite grow up and get his life together. But as you get to know him… Well you are still annoyed with him but you cut him some slack. As for Chloe, the surprise half-sister – this is a French comedy after all so there are plenty of farce-inspired misunderstandings and revealed secrets knocking around the place. I’m going to let you discover them for yourself. All I will say is that Ludivine Sagnier does an excellent job of bringing her to life. You know, sometimes you don’t need grand emotion. Sometimes, a comedy doesn’t need to have you rolling in the isles. Sometimes a sedate film with touching and insightful observations on life and a good few giggles thrown in (ok and some absurd comedy moments but I’ll let those creep up on you, I do not want to spoil the effect). Tristesse Club is a great little film to simply chill out to and forget about life. It is true that Hollywood-inspired grand emotion is wonderful in its cathartic effect but sometimes you just want to see life in all its glorious absurdity and have a good giggle.