Tour de France: For a change of scene
by Bénédicte Prot
- CANNES 2016: Rachid Djaïdani throws his heart and soul into this journey towards tolerance carried on the solid shoulders of Gérard Depardieu and a rapper unlike any other
One of them has blue eyes, the other a red baseball cap. The former has the vocabulary of an irritable Pétainist, the latter, one that is a lot wider than the other thinks… It is around the meeting of this unlikely pair, made up of Serge (Gérard Depardieu), a sixty-something mason who embodies (despite his Russian passport) the typically French racist, and young rapper Far'hook (played by Sadek, also a rapper in real life, although in a very different genre), that the new film by Rachid Djaïdani plays out, a film which presents the wandering and the message of love and tolerance from Hold Back [+see also:
interview: Rachid Djaïdani
film profile] in a completely different setting. Indeed, Tour de France [+see also:
interview: Rachid Djaïdani
film profile] takes its cue from the director’s debut feature, which got him noticed four years ago at the Cannes Film Festival, again in Directors’ Fortnight, borrowing its starting point (the streets of beautiful Paris), a storyteller and a princess, which make a brief appearance, but above all its confrontational atmosphere, as if France were a ring into which irreconcilable adversaries that don’t speak the same language – or turn a deaf ear – are constantly thrown.
Here once again, even though the song by Far’Hook that opens the film is a declaration of love, words are what spark the conflict, with his rival, Sphynx, drawing his weapon straight away and forcing the rapper, at the advice of his producer Bilal (a pureblood Frenchman by the name of Matthias who has converted to Islam), to leave the capital and hide out in the green green countryside until his next concert. Although it’s actually shades of blue that dominate his journey to Marseille along the French coast with Bilal/Matthias’ father, Serge. Serge has lost almost all contact with his son since the latter, in his opinion, betrayed French culture, one of aperitifs of cold cuts and wine, giving him the impression that it is he who is now in the minority. The thing is, Serge needs someone to accompany him on the road on his ‘pilgrimage’ (as Far-Hook calls it) from one port to another in the footsteps of maritime painter Joseph Vernet.
Set against the backdrop of this pictorial quest that echoes Djaïdani’s superb documentary on abstract painter Yaze, Encré, which was shown at the Cinéma du réel Festival last year), step by step, the director shows us how two characters, each unshakeable in their beliefs (Serge with his clichés and Far-Hook with his endlessly defensive attitude), learn to coexist on the same page, to get on the same wavelength and, by listening to each other, to broaden their horizons and look together in the same direction. Over the course of this rite of passage that allows each of them to embrace the identity of the other (reaching its peak in a priceless scene in which Serge lashes out at Sphynx gangsta style), right up to a final reconciliation in which all the characters come together as a big happy family, our two teddy bear characters one by one break down the barriers than separate them and us. Without forcefully or accidentally making it a chore or falling into endless debate (as accepting others is not about coming round to their way of thinking, but about taking it into account and accepting it), with his characteristic gentleness, former boxer turned filmmaker/actor/writer Rachid Djaïdani riddles the dialogue with comments reflecting the whole range of opinions, relevant or not, from all over France, like a huge rap battle that is nothing but a mere dialogue of the deaf, inviting us to listen. The lasting suggestion of the film (which is being sold internationally by Cité Films), is that it is in the absence of integration that toxicity is born.
(Translated from French)