Before my review of Le Gamin au vélo I would like to say a couple of things as today is the first post-DV day:
– the current look of the Avenue is not permanent, but its theme with “Random Posts” mentally forces me to add tags and categories to all the previous posts. That’s 340 posts and quite a work of labour. All the categories were lost during the transfer to the new place, so this may take some time before all it back to normal.
– two new blogs have been added to the sites you might like to take a look at: they’re Noir of the Week and Where Danger Lives, two blogs with a noir theme. Hard to go wrong there.
– At this point, the Avenue will update every time the day ends on 5 or 0. This will definitely be true for August and will help me to put some time into the Behind The Scenes work such as the retagging etc. Updates should appear on a more regular basis soon, at which point I’ll be more than happy to announce this.
Is that about it? Yes? Well, time for the review of the latest Dardenne movie. Even though Belgium is in a crisis (on the day this review is published, the country celebrates its 413th day without a government), the country never seems to look as bleak as the days in the lives of the Dardenne characters. Thomas Doret is Cyril, the boy on the bike from the film’s title: a young lad who spends his days in a home. Despite Cyril’s complete refusal to accept the truth, his father has moved to another place and didn’t leave a forwarding address. Cyril is adamant his father wouldn’t leave without bringing Cyril’s bike to the care centre: he skips school to go and look for his father, but the apartment is empty and Cyril is about to be sent back to the care centre… had I already mentioned Cyril is stubborn? Mentally unable to accept the truth, Cyril runs into the doctor’s waiting room, on the ground floor of the apartment block and accidently knocks down a woman. He clings to her as if she was his last straw of hope. She, a young hairdresser (Cécile de France, who’s more Belgian than her name suggests), falls for his despair, finds the boy’s bike and even wants to take care of Cyril during weekends.
This being a Dardenne feature, things can’t remain that positive. Before too long, a local thug and dealer fakes empathy for Cyril and tries to lure him into the world of crime. At the same time, Cyril and hairdresser Samantha track down Cyril’s father, who can’t face telling Cyril he doesn’t want to see him anymore. Surely you weren’t expecting a comedy from the Dardenne brothers?
Cyril is not the sort of protagonist you like: he’s stubborn, unable to accept truths and hides in his own reality, purposely devoid of following general laws. It’s not the first time this sort of character pops up in the world of the Dardennes: Rosetta was also a tough cookie who follows her own set of rules and laws. This sort of behaviour isn’t uncommon with kids in centres: deep down, every kick against the system is a scream for affection. Samantha accepts this more than anyone else in the film, but that doesn’t mean she can keep Cyril out of the hands of scum. You can’t blame Cyril – you can blame him for a lot of things, but not this – because the dealer kid plays his trump card well: he pretends to be like Cyril, offering a possible future of a life outside the home.
Equally, the moment Cyril wants to spend time with the dealer and flees from Samantha, is a wonderful tour de force by Cécile de France: she picks up the phone to ring for assistance, breaks down as that action would suggest failing as a foster mother and then acts responsibly by informing the care centre anyway. However, it remains to be seen whether she can still save Cyril…
Because, of course, we won’t tell you the rest of the film. Though it can’t be called a spoiler to “reveal” the film ends with an open ending. It is after all a movie by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and it’s one of their trademarks. As for the style, Le Silence de Lorna broke with earlier movies because it included a soundtrack and the camera was controlled more than in their earlier films. Le Gamin au Vélo stays on this newly discovered path. Which brings us to an overall conclusion: of course every film is an individual entry in an oeuvre, but once directors have created a body of work, comparing becomes easier. Le Gamin au Vélo offers a hardly sympathetic protagonist (like Rosetta) with a visual calmer atmosphere (like Le silence de Lorna). Now, bearing in mind that those are the two Dardenne movies I like best, Le Gamin ends – for now – on a comfortable third spot.