Monday, October 17, 2011

The Kid with a Bike (2011) VIFF Closing Film

The Kid with a Bike • Le gamin au vélo (2011)
The Kid with a Bike • Le gamin au vélo (2011)

Genre: Drama
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Starring: Thomas Doret, Cécile De France, Jérémie Renier
Duration: 84 min.
Language: French
Rating: 8.5  

Cyril, almost 12, has only one plan: to find the father who left him temporarily in a children's home. By chance he meets Samantha, who runs a hairdressing salon and agrees to let him stay with her on the weekends. Cyril doesn't recognize the love Samantha feels for him, a love he desperately needs to calm his rage.

The Kid with a Bike is a film written and directed by acclaimed Belgian duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.  It premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Grand Prix, an award shared with Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.  It was also screened as the closing film at the 2011 Vancouver International Film Festival.

The Dardenne brothers have made a career crafting touching masterpieces out of simple and realistically portrayed stories involving the Belgian working class.  With The Kid with a Bike, they follow much of the same successful template that won them 2 Palme d'Ors, but also manage to stay unpredictable by expanding on their cinematic style.

Although the story is an emotional one, the tone and pacing of the film never feels as heavy or depressing as say The Son or Rosetta.  The main character Cyril (played amazingly by Thomas Doret) is 11, and his father has abandoned him to a state-run facility.  Doret brings a natural intensity to the role and his performance brings to mind Jean-Pierre Léaud in The 400 Blows.  The film follows Cyril, as he tries to track down his father (Jérémie Renier, an actor who we've seen grow up on screen in the Dardennes' films) and his missing bicycle.  Along the way he meets Samantha (Cécile de France), a local hairdresser who agrees to foster him on the weekends.

At first he appears to be a wild almost feral child who speaks in grunts and mistrusts everyone and everything as he escapes custody and darts about the city.  He's barely lovable and not in the least bit adorable, but somehow the Dardennes make him a character that everyone can empathize with.  Also immediately noticeable is that the camerawork is decidedly steadier than usual as it sweeps and glides to follow the hyperactive Cyril always dressed in red, swiftly running and pedaling his way from scene to scene.  This greatly contributes to the fast pace of a film, one that already has a modest running time, it really just flies by.  Another stylistic departure for the Dardennes is the careful use of brief clips of classical music to punctuate certain emotional moments, I believe this is the first time they've employed any non natural music in their career, and it fits the 'realistic fairytale' feel of the film.

Cyril lacking a father figure, inevitably falls in with the wrong crowd and gets into some serious trouble.  Followed by a masterfully directed tense final act that arrives quickly and builds up to an ending confrontation with unexpected results.  The ending is not exactly a happy one, but is more uplifting than anything we've seen from the Dardennes, and leaves us with a striking message about the cycle of revenge.

Bonjour Tristesse

The Kid with a Bike • Le gamin au vélo (2011)

The Kid with a Bike • Le gamin au vélo (2011)

The Kid with a Bike • Le gamin au vélo (2011)

The Kid with a Bike • Le gamin au vélo (2011)

The Kid with a Bike • Le gamin au vélo (2011)

The Kid with a Bike • Le gamin au vélo (2011)

The Kid with a Bike • Le gamin au vélo (2011)

The Kid with a Bike • Le gamin au vélo (2011)


Bonjour Tristesse said...

Technically this is Belgian cinema, but I get what you are saying.  I haven't seen Sarah's Key yet but it's on my upcoming list, Kristin Scott Thomas is always worth watching.

Chris said...

I'm not the biggest fan of French cinema, I think I could be persuaded to seek out this one. For whatever reason, I find film from that region tedious quite often, and it annoys me when there is no music. Sounds like this film breaks that trend with a classical score, and is a bit more fast-paced.

An a-typical French film with a Hollywood pace I'd recommend is Sarah's key (2010) starring kristin scott thomas.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah it does provide a good example for that.  I'm a bit disappointed that Belgium picked something else to represent them this year.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yep in my eyes they haven't made a bad film yet.

My 2 pesos said...

I want to watch it. The plot seems interesting. (:

Hasidic Plubmer said...

It didn't look all that great, but reading your view on it, made me reconsider my PoV. he history per se didn't sound that appealing, but if you say it's not slow at all and give it 8.5, it has to be good.

Hoi-Ming Ng said...

Hmm. I'm probably going to miss out on this one unless I run into it later.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Well then I highly recommend Rosetta, it's one of my favorite films.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

It's definitely worth tracking down.  How many films did you end up seeing?

Moviemonstrosityblog said...

Rosetta is an amazing film. Loved it. Haven't seen Le Gamin au Vélo Yet :)

Steven Flores said...

I'm a fan of the Dardenne Brothers and I so want to see this.  They just keep bringing the good stuff.

d_4 said...

This.. this feels like a must.

Max Covill said...

I've never seen a film from this pair, but I sorely need too. I'm not sure where I would get the chance to watch this in theaters. I will keep an eye out for it when it gets a home video release. Thanks for the review. 

FrontRoomCinema said...

Another great film I have missed at LFF. I will need to track this down when it gets a release!!

NeverTooEarlyMP said...

This one sounds pretty good to me. I hope they play it in my area. Since it has a fast pace and short running time, I'm thinking this might be a good recommendation for folks who are new to foreign film (to help break up the misconceptions that folks have.)

d_4 said...

I saw this one yesterday. I'm pretty glad I gave it a watch, but the ending.. I think it went on for too long. The entire movie was great, it took me and placed me in a situation and then made me feel it, all this is fine. But the ending.. I won't spoil it, I just think if it had ended a minute sooner, without making it seem like it was going to continue on to something I would've been happier.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Glad you got to see it. At first I wasn't too fond of how it ends either, but I think it fits the fable/fairy tale angle they were going for.

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