The Age of Man ... Now or Never!



PARIS -- "The Age of Man ... Now or Never!" (L'age d'homme ... maintenant ou jamais!), Raphael Fejto's second feature, begins promisingly, with thirtysomething filmmaker Samuel setting a 24-hour deadline to make a delicate decision: Should he or should he not, after a lifetime of happily unmarried bliss, tie the knot with Tina, his live-in girlfriend of the past year?

Having set the stage for a romantic comedy, Fejto appears to have decided that he also would like the movie to function as a comedy of manners, or at least of existential angst. His ambivalence, reflected in the double-barreled title, mirrors that of his protagonist.

With Romain Duris, arguably France's most gifted young star, in the starring role, the movie might achieve boxoffice impact in its own territory. But its lightweight blend of incident, whimsy and fantasy is unlikely to travel well.

The crucial missing ingredient is a compelling story line. Samuel spends most of his time bickering with Tina (Aissa Maiga), a good-natured photographer, and hanging out with his pals Jorge (Clement Sibony) and Mounir (Rachid Djaidani), chewing over the pros and cons of matrimony.

Jorge already has opted for commitment to a partner and is more interested in practical matters like a choice of refrigerator. Mounir too is thinking of taking the plunge by agreeing to a request by his latest flame to have a baby even though he knows she is a lesbian at heart and might be just using him for procreational purposes.

Samuel, meanwhile, engages in daydream dialogues with his double dressed as Leonardo da Vinci or fantasies about himself living as a caveman. He remains sensitive to the charms of other women, wistfully checking out a woman he encounters while visiting an apartment to rent and later at the swimming pool, and then spending the night with a woman who casually picks him up in a nightclub (cue clumsily simulated sex scenes).

He even fails to meet his own deadline, as considerably more than 24 hours have passed before, on a Tunisian beach, he faces Tina and squares up to doing what a man's gotta do.

There is plenty of talent on display. Pluses include Mathias Raaflaub's sunwashed cinematography, a jazz-funk musical soundtrack featuring Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield and Amy Winehouse and a male cheesecake quotient in the form of the Duris torso.

But the spectator is left wondering why he should care. Fejto ducks ethnic or generational issues that might have added perspective to Samuel's ego-obsessed maunderings. Tina is black, Jorge Hispanic and Mounir North African, and other minorities are also visible, but none of this is ever referred to, which might possibly be a tribute to France's success in multicultural assimilation but more likely is simply an evasion. And there is not a parent in sight.

Duris, a boyhood friend of Fejto's, starred in his debut feature "Osmosis" in 2003 as did Sibony and Djaidani, and several of the crew also worked on the earlier movie. Maiga, despite having little to do, confirms her growing reputation as a talented actress.

Fejto, who came to notice as a child actor in Louis Malle's "Au revoir, les enfants" and made his first video short at 17, has clearly mastered the language of cinema. It is not yet clear that he has anything to say.

UGC YM, France 2 Cinema
Director-screenwriter: Raphael Fejto
Producer: Yves Marmion
Director of photography: Mathias Raaflaub
Production designer: Samuel Deshors
Music: Matthieu Aschehoug, Tal
Costume designer: Charlotte Toscan du Plantier
Editor: Mathilde Bertrandy
Samuel: Romain Duris
Tina: Aissa Maiga
Jorge: Clement Sibony
Mounir: Rachid Djaidani
Vittorio: Tarubi
Woman in Flat: Maria Jurado
Nightclub Woman: Irina Solano
Running time -- 88 minutes
No MPAA rating