MA VIE AVEC JAMES DEAN (My Life With James Dean) (France 2017) ***
Directed by Dominique Choisy
The first thing to note about MY LIFE ABOUT JAMES DEAN is that there is no James Dean in this movie. He does no appear in the film (except in a poster and a cut up figure in a dream sequence) or is this an American film. MA VIE AVEC JAMES DEAN is the title of the fictitious French film that the director brings to a small town in picturesque Normandy.
When soft-spoken film director Géraud Champreux (Johnny Rasse) arrives on France’s Normandy coast for screenings of his latest art-house movie, there’s nobody there to greet him. But he somehow manages to attract a motley crew of locals who bring their own drama along on his little tour.
There is the cinema projectionist (Mickaël Pelissier) who falls besides coming out for
Géraud. Nathalie Richard plays a lovelorn cineaste who is supped to organize the event but falls apart when her fame lover god with a man instead.
The film contains some quirky insights common to French films. “Love is a burden, I hate being in love,” says the woman who organizes the film event. But that makes life exciting, is Géraud’s retort. She likens love to getting gum stuck on the sole of ones shoe and continues that there are hundred of gums on the street. One scene later on shows a woman walking along the street trying to get the gum off her shoe.
Choisy’s film is also typical of the old gay films that teases with promising gay love or gay sex. The audience gets a first glimpse of Géraud without his shirt on - displaying a nice chiseled upper body. Later when he is drunk, the female hotel receptionist and male projectionist take off his clothes to let him sleep (as he is dead drunk) in his underwear. Thee is also a nice shot of the projectionist and Géraud in one frame as they watch his film through the projectionist’s window, a gay film where two naked men indulge in the act of sex.
Choisy plays his film with Kafka-ish touches. Géraud asks a resident where the Hotel de Calais is, right outside the hotel. The hotel receptionist tells him that there is no working telephone in room 5 in which he is put in. She then gives him the hotel telephone from under the counter. A resident Géraud first meets when he enters a bar speaks with fish metaphors.
Choisy’s film is a small production, very much like the film Géraud has brought to Normandy. It is well made and well-though through and immensely entertaining in its own odd way. It still shows the freshness of first love and coming-out.
One segment that occurs out of nowhere has a band in the night outdoors performing a song with spectators all sporting sunglasses. The scene is reminiscent of Aki Kaurismaki’s films where bands often perform and his characters often wear shades. One wonders if Choisy is paying a bit of homage to Kaurismaki considering that quite a bit of the humour is deadpan. The film could also be considered a nod to the Woody Allen classic PLAY IT AGAIN SAM where Humphrey Bogart nudges Allen’s character towards romance, in which case it is James Dean
nudging the projectionist on with his love or Géraud.
MA VIE AVEC JAMES DEAN is an entertaining sweet little quirky gay comedy with likeable characters with sufficient inventiveness to make it a good watch. Availanle on VOD and DVD August 28th