October 30, 2011

Le gamin au vélo (Belgium 2011)

Among the films in this year's Cannes competition, there were two that shared the spotlight: Terrence Malick's ambitious epic "The Tree of Life" which eventually won the legendary director the Palme d'Or and Lars von Trier's "Melancholia", not least thanks to its controversial press conference.

But there was at least one other film that would have deserved more media attention not for the über-ego of its director but because of the quality of the actual film. And if I would have to choose one film, among all the strong competitors, it would have to be "Le gamin au vélo" by the Dardenne brothers. It is one of their best films so far which almost automatically makes it one of the best films of the year. The reason they "only" won the Grand Prize of the jury in Cannes was probably because they already received the Palme d'Or twice for films similar to this one. But even if there is the feeling that they have made this kind of film before, "Le gamin au vélo" is still a revelation.

A simple tale of a young abandoned child, it is authentic and rough, but also sincere, tender and touching. It is the kind of film that no one makes as good as the Dardennes. The performances are great and even even a big name star like Cécile De France blends seemlessly into the ensemble. I didn't even realize it was her until about 30 minutes into the film. A piano concerto by Beethoven is used occasionally during the film in key moments. Some may find such dramatization - which is somehow atypical for the Dardennes - unnecessary but it worked perfectly for me and even made me cry. Even the Dardennes, however subtly, seem to have their tricks to create emotions...

Le gamin au vélo is a simple yet flawless film. It is the best film about a father, a son and a bicycle since "Bicycle Thieves". In a running time of just 87 minutes, it has everything that cinema needs to have. Nothing more, nothing less.



Thomas Doret and Cécile De France in "Le gamin au vélo"

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