‘Gascogne’ Shows Aubier Hasn’t Lost His Touch
Pascal Aubier’s irresistible “Son of Gascogne” puts a smile on your face and keeps it there. This French charmer involves young love, an intricate comedy plot and an homage to vintage New Wave stars and directors.
It’s Aubier’s first feature in 20 years, but you’d never know the director of “Valparaiso, Valparaiso” and “The Song of Farewell,” two well-received films of the ‘70s, had ever been away. “Son of Gascogne” launches “Le Cinema Francais” at the Grande 4-Plex, where it will play one week only.
Aubier, once an assistant to Jean-Luc Godard, gets his blithe yet poignant tale off to a fast start. A tall, lean young man named Harvey (Gregoire Colin) has been commandeered by his absent travel agent mother to serve as a guide for a group of Georgian singers while they’re in Paris for two concerts. Accompanying the singers as an interpreter is a lovely teenager, Dinara (Dinara Droukarova).
Of course, the two young people are headed for romance--this is after all a French film--but such complications! In no time at all a florid, middle-aged chauffeur and would-be con man, Marco (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), meets Harvey with the group and insists the young man is the son of the late, legendary director Gascogne, the true founder of France’s New Wave of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.
As it happens Harvey knows nothing of his father. As for himself, Marco declares he played the little boy in the classic film “White Mane.” What Marco has in mind is to get his hands on the fabled never-seen final film of Gascogne, who died in the early ‘70s, for his own profitable purposes.
In an attempt to locate the film Marco swoops up Harvey in a round of meetings with a glittering array of notables who knew and worked with Gascogne (a fictional character represented in the film with old photos of Aubier himself). With the purported son of the great Gascogne in tow, the flamboyant Marco has little difficulty meeting with the film folk. Initially dubious, Harvey gets carried away with Marco’s sheer gusto; to be sure, the Georgian singers get neglected.
Among those who play themselves with much good humor are Alexandra Stewart, Bernadette Lafont, Stephane Audran, Jean-Claude Brialy, Laszlo Kovacs, Bulle Ogier, Macha Meril, Marie-France Pisier, Anemone, Marina Vlady, Yves Alfonso and Alain Emery (the actual star of “White Mane”) and directors Claude Chabrol, Michel Deville, Richard Leacock, Patrice Leconte and Jean Rouch. Some of the actresses confess to having romances with the formidable Gascogne; Brialy describes to Harvey how handsome Gascogne was, adding, “I could have been your mother.”
Aubier slips in moments from their films (and his own) with unobtrusive skill. For anyone who knows and treasures the careers, all of them ongoing, of these artists, “Son of Gascogne” will be a particular pleasure.
Last seen in Claire Denis’ far more serious “Nenette and Boni,” Colin again impresses, this time as a nice kid who at last has to sort out his life, and Droukarova is persuasive as Dinara, lots less naive than Harvey but thrilled to meet the stars she’s mainly only read about.
However, it is the marvelous Dreyfus, featured in “Delicatessen,” who energizes the entire film with his paunchy, pushy yet lovable phony. In a flourish of perfect timing and judgment Aubier allows for a sentimental adieu to Marco and proceeds to a clear-eyed finish with the young lovers that ever-so-subtly suggests that in a sense the unknown paternity of Harvey just may repeat itself.
* Unrated. Times guidelines: It includes some lovemaking, frontal nudity.
‘Son of Gascogne’ (‘Le Fils de Gascogne’)
Jean-Claude Dreyfus: Marco Garciano
Gregoire Colin: Harvey
Dinara Droukarova: Dinara
A Filmopolis Pictures release of a Sybarite S.A. production in association with Cadrage Films and France 2-TV. Director Pascal Aubier. Producer Denis Hartnagel. Executive producer Patrice Jacquet and Jean-Marc Rouget. Screenplay by Aubier and Patrice Modiano. Cinematographer Jean-Jacques Flori. Editor Dominique Roy. Music Angelo Zurolo. Art directors Ann Chkravety and Dominique Cluzel. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes.
* Exclusively at the Grande 4-Plex through April 9, 345 S. Figueroa St., downtown Los Angeles, (213) 617-0268.