The Clink of Ice -- Film Review

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PARIS -- More brazen than Showtime's "The Big C," where the word cancer is even avoided for a while, "The Clink of Ice," by Bertrand Blier, France's self-confessed misanthropist, pessimist and alleged -- he denies the charge -- misogynist, is a defiantly upbeat tragi-buffoonery about one of mankind's greatest scourges.

The writer-director took an ingenious idea, threw in three top acting talents and his usual brand of dark, transgressive humor, shook vigorously and produced a comedy about cancer with boxoffice potential.

Blier has admitted to a personal skirmish with cancer during the recent past, so for all the horseplay, his handling of the issues surrounding the disease is sure-footed and convincing. The question remains: Who's going to turn out to see a cancer romp? Perhaps not the popcorn-crunchers, but there's plenty to please a theatergoer equipped with a sense of humor who loves life and is prepared to stare its grimmer features in the face.

The film, which opens Wednesday in France, will have its international premiere when it opens the Venice Days sidebar at the Venice Film Festival.

Charles Faulque (Jean Dujardin), a popular, award-winning novelist, is under the weather. His inspiration has dried up, his wife has walked out, and he has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor. His despair is compounded when a stranger (Albert Dupontel) turns up at the country residence he has retired to and declares cheerfully, "I am your cancer."

This character is dedicated to making the rest of his life a misery. Little wonder that Charles resorts so readily to the white wine, suitably chilled with ice.

The intervention of Charles' cancer is the signal for his housekeeper, the plain, self-effacing Louisa (Anne Alvaro), to declare her love for him. Further complications set in when a second stranger (Myriam Boyer) shows up and introduces herself as the incarnation of Louisa's hitherto undetected breast cancer.

As Charles struggles to come to terms with his cancer in a series of exchanges with its human embodiment, and Louisa finds herself in a similar predicament, the plot develops as a love story between the human protagonists, with their diseases providing sardonic commentary from the sidelines.

The humor ranges from Blier's characteristic dark one-liners to the knockabout and at times frankly surreal. Particularly memorable is Charles' visit to a clinic for a brain scan, attended by Charles' cancer in a white coat blending in with the doctors, at which an exasperated head medic head-butts the patient.

Interspersed in the clowning are moments of tenderness, among them a visit by Charles' troubled son, Stanislas (Emile Berling), who asks him whether life is worth living. In what could well be the Blier credo, Charles gives a qualified yes. "At times it's magnificent," he says, then adds: "And at times, it's shit."

Opens: Wednesday, Aug. 25 (Wild Bunch) (France)
Production: Thelma Films, Manchester Films
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Albert Dupontel, Anne Alvaro, Myriam Boyer, Emile Berling, Audrey Dana, Christa Theret, Genevieve Mnich
Director-screenwriter: Bertrand Blier
Producers: Christine Goslan, Catherine Bozorgan
Director of photography: Francois Catonne
Production design: Patrick Dutertre
Editor: Marion Monestier
No rating, 87 minutes
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