'Guy': Film Review | Cannes 2018

Courtesy of Cannes
A sparkling, ironic salute to age and passing time.

French comic and director Alex Lutz portrays a pop singer from the 1960s in a mockumentary.

The Cannes Critics' Week closed with a happy bang with the screening of Guy, the mockumentary portrait of a seventy-something pop star who has seen better days but refuses to leave the stage. Directed by and starring 39-year-old French stand-up comic Alex Lutz, it's a good-humored tour de force and audience pleaser, though given all the local jokes and references, that audience is likely to be French. The non-francais can count on spending an enjoyable evening strolling down memory lane with Guy's vulgar barbs and poignant innuendoes, even if they've never seen TV shows like Vivement Dimanche and miss out on some of the gags.

One suspects the film could be a turning point for Lutz, who is known for creating characters through his body language and facial expressions alone. Here he has the advantage of costumes (rigorously all-black onstage, with a flash of gold chain around the neck) and excellent makeup that turns him into a man in his 70s (as well as a young singer in his 20s crooning duets with Marina Hands and Elodie Bouchez). In fact, with his shock of white hair and perpetually open mouth, Lutz looks so natural as the singer "Guy Jamet" that unwary viewers will be fooled into thinking it's a much older actor playing the part. The really unwary may try to track down Guy Jamet on Wikipedia, but he is a compilation of a number of classic crooners.

A straight-talking old trooper who's seen it all, Guy's a bit slow to react but still carries an aura of celebrity and flamboyance. His favorite singer, he claims, is Elvis. He's introduced in a wobbly handheld shot taken by an unseen filmmaker named Gauthier, who has convinced him to be the subject of a "documentary portrait." Much later, toward the end of the film, Gauthier is revealed as actor Tom Dingler, who is as blond and blue-eyed as Guy. As he confides to the camera in a private moment, his mother has recently informed him that Guy is his father, whom she met during a gig in Tours. But he's far too proud and embarrassed to mention this fact to the older man.

So his hidden reason for making the doc is to meet his father and find out who his sire really is. This lends a bit of suspense to the proceedings. Does Guy guess his secret? And if so, when?

Though well past his prime, the singer has a new album out and is touring the country with his band to promote it. Older audiences, particularly women, turn out in droves to hear him and take selfies. The album is all old material, and before the film is over, we get to hear most of the ditties, cheerful sendups of terrible French kitsch from the 1960s through the 1990s.

Guy is still on good terms with his ex-wife, Anne-Marie, who is played as a young woman by a dazzling Bouchez and later by the actress-singer Dani. Time has passed for her as well as Guy. Looking back, he recognizes her as the love of his life and the woman for whom his hit song "Dadidou" was written.

Guy is currently living with Sophie (Pascale Arbillot), a spacey TV star much younger than he is. You can hear the disappointment in Gauthier's question about why his legend lives in a small country house in the south, where he keeps a couple of horses to ride — he had imagined Guy in much more glamorous surroundings. "If my life is enough for me, what do you care?" the singer snaps, and the audience is on his side.

But Guy has yet to be domesticated. Taking Gauthier to a strip club on a boys' night out in Cannes, he opines that sex and alcohol have kept him off drugs. The film offers many quiet revelations of this type, as Guy drolly uncovers his private life for the inquisitive camera. He may be comically free in his use of vulgarities, but he's still a gentleman. Two touching scenes — a lunch with his grown son and his comic dialogue with a bum hanging around the port in Cannes — take the film deeper than his usual tongue-in-cheek banter.

In a lovely poetic ending, old newsreels run backward, summing up the final wisdom Guy passes on to his son: "All our images will disappear, like the millions that were in our grandparents' heads."

Production companies: Iliade & Films, Studiocanal, JMD Productions
Cast: Alex Lutz, Tom Dingler, Pascale Arbillot, Nicole Calfan, Dani, Elodie Bouchez, Marina Hands, Brigitte Rouan, Julie Arnold
Director: Alex Lutz
Screenwriters: Alex Lutz, Anais Deban, Thibault Segouin
Producer: Oury Milshstein
Director of photography: Matthieu Le Bothlan
Production designer: Pascal Le Guellec
Editors: Alexandre Donot, Alexandre Westphal
Music: Vincent Blanchard, Romain Greffe
Casting: Angelique Luisi
Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week)
World sales: Studiocanal

101 minutes