Cap Tourmente

In French (1993)

Barbara: "You people seem to be in love with each other."

Jeanne and her daughter Alfa have an inn by the sea shore. The inn is failing, and customers are going elsewhere. Jeanne's son Alex (Roy Dupuis) comes home, disrupts the family, and behaves so badly that he makes the situation worse.

Alex is a disturbing character. I admit I was a bit freaked when the movie started with him kissing a man full on the mouth and then making a pass at his own sister. (He even made something that could be interpreted as a pass at his mother.) Alfa says Alex is sick, but never says what is wrong with him. In fact, it is never clear what is actually going on with Alex. Is he mentally ill? In love with his sister? Jean-Louis? Himself? Alex appears to love everyone but at the same time, he is so amoral that it seems unlikely that he is capable of love at all. It was also hard to tell how the other characters felt about Alex. Jean-Louis kissed Alex passionately, but slept with Alfa. Alfa rebuffed Alex's pass by kicking him in the crotch, and then she danced with him a very sexual way. Jeanne touched Alex when he was naked and sitting on the old, wrecked ship. None of this is ever explained.

And that is probably because this is one of those films where people behave in a bizarre fashion and everything means something else. I think Alex is just a plot device. He represented the uncontrollable chaos that came into their lives, like the metaphor they used of a horse in a storm. They were all on stormy seas. Barbara, a Russian girl who stayed at the inn after her bicycle broke down, said the inn was like a boat. Alex spent a lot of time on an old, wrecked ship, plus the film began with Alex at the prow of a ship, and ended with Jeanne in the same pose. There was a scene where Jeanne was playing the piano, and Alex took over, put in a player piano roll, and the entire family sang "Stormy Weather." Alex built a tower of glasses and then knocked them down. While painting the house, he fell and spilled paint everywhere, including on family members. The fireplace smoked the family out of the house. Symbolism R Us.

Interestingly enough, Alex carried his cello everywhere, and there was a lot of singing. (I think this was the first time I heard Roy Dupuis sing.) I wonder what the cello was supposed to represent? He continually played the cello (badly), dropped it in the sand, tossed it in the ocean to see if it would float, and finally smashed it against Barbara's bicycle. And Alex's brief affair with Barbara was just fascinating. They didn't communicate because she couldn't speak French and he refused to speak English, even though he spoke the language. In one scene I particularly liked, they argued in Russian and French, neither understanding the other. He told her he was speaking from his heart, and of course, he simultaneously made certain that she wouldn't understand him.

Roy's performance as Alex was exceptional; I couldn't take my eyes off him. He stared at people in an inappropriate way that was particularly disturbing. Physically aggressive, he constantly invaded their personal space, touching them without their spoken or unspoken invitation. And he looked very different than he did in other roles. Blond and tan, more muscular and heavier than usual, he reminded me of James Dean or a young Marlon Brando. And yes, he did a nude scene, complete with dangly bits. Can't be bad.

This movie was interesting, compelling and uncomfortable at the same time. I watched it twice and didn't get bored, even though my French is not what it should be.

Three out of four stars,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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