Fremantle Film Festival Features Outdoor Movies from Around the World -A Review of 'Welcome to the Sticks' (2008)
Earlier this year the Fremantle Film Festival in Australia kicked off with dozens of outdoor movie events held at the Bohemia Outdoor Cinema. While the festival ran from January to February, film selections varied from rock and roll documentaries to local shorts. During the duration of the outdoor film festival, each Saturday night featured a selection from World Cinema; films were shown from Turkey, Lebanon, Italy, and others. One of these international films was the wildly popular French film, "Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'tis", or "Welcome to the Sticks", which has been to France what "Titanic" was in the United States. The following is a review of the film written by Greg Quill of the Toronto Star. You can read the original blog post about the outdoor movie event here.
The outstanding success in his French homeland of Welcome to the Sticks (Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis), French stand-up comedy star Dany Boon's wildly funny and affectionate tribute to the rough, good-natured characters he grew up with in the industrial wilderness of Nord-Pas de Calais, belies the simple conceit around which this small movie is constructed.
A sensation in France it's the biggest attraction in French movie history, more popular than Titanic Welcome to the Sticks reworks the clichГ© of a self-possessed city slicker exiled to some primitive rural backwater where he expects to endure nothing but misery, but succumbs instead to the wily charms and simple, honest ways of the local residents.
Boon tinkers with the formula just enough to make his story fresh and the sentiment at its heart not too sweet, though compounded contrivances in the last 30 minutes of the picture threaten to unravel its peculiar magic.
That magic relies to a large extent on misunderstandings caused by the local dialect spoken by the Ch'tis (a slang term for the residents and language of that part of the French north). To please his short-tempered wife, post office executive Philippe Abrams, played with just the right mix of pathos and ennui by sad-eyed Kad Merad, tries desperately and fails shamefully in an attempt to win a management post on the glamorous Riviera.
For his sins he is banished from his southern home for two years to run the post office in the village of Bergues in the far north, a former mining outpost he imagines is inhabited by barbarians who gobble down "gypsy food" and drink themselves into oblivion.
Unable to put his furious wife, Julie (ZoГ© FГ©lix), and their son through the ordeal, he opts to go it alone. Returning home on weekends, Philippe finds it beneficial not to disabuse Julie of her impressions of his suffering, even though Bergues is pretty place with loads of rustic charm. There, he has been taken under the wing of chief postman and town carillonneur (carillon player) Antoine (Boon), and introduced to the oddly endearing rituals of the village and its quirky citizens.
Unknown to Julie, Philippe enjoys long, open-air lunches, football matches and rowdy communal dinners with Antoine and his co-workers, Fabrice (Philippe Duquesne), Yann (Guy Lecluyse) and Annabelle (Anne Marivin) who are kindness and affability personified.
Of course, Philippe's lie must come undone, and it does when Julie suddenly decides she will share his pain and live in cultural and gastronomic deprivation in Bergues with her husband. The villagers' manic attempts to protect their new friend by reinforcing his wife's delusions manage simultaneously to lampoon the Ch'ti way of life and mock southern French snobbery.
Boon pulls this off with great assurance. Still, there's something anarchistic in the way he serves two sets of comic sensibilities, a kind of vaudevillian bravado that reminds us of Chaplin and Billy Wilder, two of Boon's cinematic heroes.
It's no wonder the belches and guttural yawps of Ch'tis have become all the rage in France since this movie opened.
Boon has, quite unintentionally, created a kind of everyman's nirvana out of the rough terrain of Nord-Pas de Calais and sparked a tourism boom from which the locals may never recover.
Source: "Welcome to the Sticks: Reveals charms of the true north" by Gregg Quill -the Toronto Star. Read full review at: http://www.thestar.com/Entertainment/article/575836
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