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Cycling With Molière/Bicycling With Molière/Alceste à Bicyclette

6/10

Stars: Fabrice Luchini, Lambert Wilson, Maya Sansa, Laurie Bordesoules, Camille Japy, Annie Mercier, Ged Marlon, Stephane Wojtowicz.

Director: Philippe Le Guay

If you ever had really, really high opinions of actors prepare to shed them while you watch Lambert Wilson and Fabrice Luchini vie to be top dog (chien?) in this pleasant comedy of friendship, embarrassment and betrayal. And if you know your Moliere backwards, there’s the added enjoyment of watching the leads act their way through large chunks of ‘The Misanthrope’.

Writer-director Philippe Le Guay created his screenplay from an original idea from Luchini who, playing an actor who quit his profession at the peak of his acting career (if only more real-life thespians would follow suit!), now lives hermit-style, on a small island off the Atlantic coast of France.

Enter Lambert, currently a major small screen star as TV’s ‘Doctor Morange’ (the short excerpt we see during the film is witty, cruel and every bit as convincing as most real small screen medical series), tracks down his former friend to see if he can be persuaded to join him on stage in Moliere’s ‘The Misanthrope’.

Luchini refuses.

Cue scene after scene of him failing to agree to the project, cue amusing and well acted sequence of the rival pair rehearsing the show and, most pungently, taking cruel and bitterly envious swipes against each other…

The leads’ compelling performances carry the essentially slim show while Le Guay callously sends up rival thespians, giving the best (and most viciously apt line) to Luchini when he sums up the theatre as “a dirty business with vulgar people”.

Ah, well, that’s Show Business!

(And who says the movies don’t teach you anything? I now know the French have no native word for ‘vasectomy’ and repeat the English word with a Gallic accent.)

Alan Frank

France 2013. UK Distributor: Curzon Film World/Artificial Eye. Colour by Eclair.
105 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 05 Jul 2014