Unexpected is the norm in ‘Cote d’Azur’

Times Staff Writer

The crass trailer for Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s “Cote d’Azur” suggests it is but another ooh-la-la French sex farce, but the film is actually a gentle parable on the folly of sexual pretense. It is a comedy, more sensual than sexy, and it is wise in the ways of the heart -- and the loins. This is a sophisticated adult treat in the French manner with an attractive and gifted cast and is essentially serious, yet often whimsical and always compassionate.

Marc Biancheri (Gilbert Melki), proprietor of a garage in Paris, looks forward to summer vacation as a special treat, for he has just inherited from his estranged great aunt his late grandparents’ ancient Cote d’Azur villa, where he spent the happy summers of his youth and which he hasn’t seen for more than 20 years. Although somewhat rundown, the place has an irresistible, picturesque charm -- even if its water heater is woefully inadequate. Marc’s lovely, easygoing wife, Beatrix (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), who frequently credits her liberated views to her half-Dutch heritage, quickly settles in.

Almost as quickly, the Biancheri’s 19-year-old daughter, Laura (Sabrina Seyvecou), takes off for Portugal with her biker boyfriend, but 17-year-old son Charly (Romain Torres) has invited Martin (Edouard Collin), a former schoolmate he hasn’t seen for a year, to visit. Marc, who likes to keep busy, has a hard time relaxing and frets about his children and their sex lives while Beatrix’s laissez-faire attitude perversely leads her to get it in her head that her son, merely shy with girls, is gay.

She congratulates herself on her approval of his presumed affair with Martin, who actually is gay and hopes Charly is too. Martin’s resulting sexual frustration propels the plot in unexpected directions. Meanwhile, Beatrix’s ardent lover, Mathieu (Jacques Bonnaffe), has turned up unexpectedly, and, although at first feeling a little tacky over their clandestine meetings, Beatrix decides to enjoy the continuity in her double life. In the meantime, Charly has called hunky plumber Didier (Jean-Marc Barr) to check out the lack of hot water in the shower.


There are consciousness-raising surprises ahead for the Biancheris, particularly Marc and Beatrix, who have never really reflected on the consequences of the pretense in their lives. Witty, buoyant and affectionate, “Cote d’Azur,” with its delightful ensemble cast, extends a warm embrace to those learning to accept themselves and others as they really are.


‘Cote d’Azur’

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Adult themes and situations, considerable sensuality, some nudity

Distributed by Strand Releasing. Writers-directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau. Producers Nicolas Blanc, Robert Guediguian. Cinematographer Matthieu Poirot-Delpech. Editor Dominique Gallieni. Music Philippe Miller. Costumes Anne-Marie Giacalone. Art director Lise Petermann. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

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