‘Vive le cinema’ (‘Arrete ton cinema!’): Film Review

Courtesy of BAC Films
'Day for Night' this ain’t.

French star Sylvie Testud ('24 Days') plays an actress trying to direct her first feature.

Newsflash: The movie business is filled with horrible egomaniacs who — to paraphrase William Goldman — know nothing.

If that sounds like a revelation to you, then the French film biz farce Vive le cinema (Arrete ton cinema!) may offer up some newfound wisdom about life behind the camera. But for the rest of us, this broadly handled comedy starring Sylvie Testud (La Vie en rose) and directed by Diane Kurys (The Children of the Century) dishes out a few decent jokes amid a predictable scenario that falls flat on its face in the last act.

Adapted from Testud’s semi-autobiographical novel, the story follows successful Gallic actress Sybille (Testud) trying to make a feature film about her father’s death. She hooks up with a pair of hotshot producers named Brigitte (Josiane Balasko) and Ingrid (Zabou Breitman) who are so loudmouthed and obnoxious, they may as well be called the Weinstein sisters.

Despite everyone warning her to stay away from the moguls, Sybille goes ahead with them, engaging in a series of terrible rewrites and allowing her backers to impinge on various creative decisions involving cast, crew, marketing et al. The catch is that the producers don’t necessarily have the money they need, leaving Sybille to fight for a movie that’s tearing her family life — including her stable relationship with the uber-understanding Adrien (Fred Testot) — into pieces.

While some parts of the script ring true, and Testud has enough conviction to make Sybille a credible heroine, there are way too many scenes played for over-the-top laughs, to the point that the dream sequences and real-life moments start blurring together. Ingrid is an especially cliched creation, snorting coke behind her desk, guzzling champagne for breakfast and screaming hysterically at a nudnik assistant (Alban Casterman) who serves as the office whipping boy. Brigitte fairs slightly better, mostly because comic vet Balasko (The Hedgehog) still has great timing.

If the narrative can sustain minimal interest as long as Sybille believes in her project, things quickly unravel during the closing scenes, with a few outre twists rounding out the plot in the least credible way possible. It’s unclear at that point whether Testud has given up on her movie the way her character tries so hard not to, or whether the movie we’re now watching is meant to be the outcome of something that ultimately failed. (Both the actress and Kurys made for a marginally stronger combo in their last outing together: the biopic Sagan.)

Either way, the end result does little to shake the public’s already jaded idea of the film industry, thought it may reassure foreign viewers that it can be as awful in France as it is in Hollywood. Beyond that sole attraction, Vive le cinema hardly restores one’s faith in the movies, though it may convince you that movies can be better than this.

Production company: Alexandre Films
Cast: Sylvie Testud, Josiane Balasko, Zabou Breitman, Fred Testot, Claire Keim
Director: Diane Kurys
Screenwriters: Diane Kurys, Sylvie Testud, based on her novel
C’est le métier qui rentre
Producers: Diane Kurys, Alexandre Arcady
Executive producers: Catherine Grandjean, Claude Fenioux
Director of photography: Gilles Henry
Production designer: Tony Egry
Costume designer: Eric Perron
Editor: Sylvie Gadmer
Composers: Hugo Gonzalez Pioli, Paolo Buonvino
Casting director: Gerard Moulevrier
Sales agent: Bac Films

In French
90 minutes

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