FUNNY FELIX (THE ADVENTURES OF FELIX/DROLE DE FELIX)
Director: Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
Stars: Sami Bouajila, Patachou, Ariane Ascaride
For no apparent reason, the sombre worlds of HIV infection and racial violence backdrop this weak light comedy.
Félix (Sami Bouajila) likes morning television, drawing, and North-African music. He seems happy with his boyfriend and their leisurely life in northern France, but when he loses his job on the ferries (after the opening of the Chunnel) and stumbles across his dead mother’s stash of hidden letters, he embarks on a hitchhiking tour to meet the father he’s never known. Along the way, he strings together an ad-hoc family from chance encounters with strangers. Stolen cars, brief affairs and life lessons feature in a very segmented and predictable story.
Félix’s first encounter is with son petit frere, Jules (Charley Serue) a horny seventeen year old who lives with his parents. Out for a laugh, the pair steal a woman’s car, only to find that she’s left her newborn baby on the back seat. They return the baby, but keep the car, in fact, after they split, Félix keeps it, completing a leg of his journey before abandoning it by the roadside. (So much for Félix’s bravado that his journey be independent, self-funded and picaresque.)
Anyway, Félix drags Jules into a gay disco, where they writhe around to nosebleed techno before getting booted out when Félix tells the bar owner that his companion is underage. I guess the movie is called Funny Félix, not Smart Felix. Félix then blames Jules for entering the disco despite being underage. It’s not called Félix with the Good Memory, either.
Further down the road, Félix encounters his “grandmother”, a feisty old broad (played by cabaret star Patachou) who sneaks glances at his naked body, before he hitches a ride with his new “cousin”, a burly gay railway worker. They stop for a romantic interlude in a flower-filled field before adjourning to the nearby bushes for sex. But fear not – when they reemerge, Félix’s “cousin” is brandishing a used condom, ready to chuck it in the bushes, and there’s even a couple of lines of cheesy dialogue that spotlight it, with Félix determined not to let his careless new friend litter the environment.
The film sails on, and we meet Félix’s “sister”, a single mother with three kids to three different fathers. Félix finally arrives in Marseilles, meets his “father” then sits down to make some tough decisions. Along the way, he’s haunted by some thugs he catches bashing a mixed-race guy almost to death.
The film’s unoriginal theme, that we can find our non-biological family all around us is handled excessively deliberately, with titles announcing the arrival of each new family member and the film being structured as a series of short films, run in sequence but totally independent from each other. Félix acts like such a dickhead at times that we care increasingly less about how everything turns out for him or anyone he meets.
Félix’s HIV infection has a strong presence in the film – we see him take his medication in almost every other scene - but has no real narrative purpose. He’s just HIV-positive and on combination therapy, as well as being a jaunty bon vivant. Likewise, his North-African heritage superficially allies him with every other mixed-race person in the film, despite him not suffering from any apparent racism himself.
Poor Rock Hudson must be rolling in his grave: ditzy light comedies now feature HIV-positive gay characters as frothy, cute leads.