Roger Closset (Benoit Poelvoorde), a newspaperman and patriarch of a working class family, decides to try and better his lot by entering his son in a record-breaking competition. A competition of opening and closing a door no less (yes you heard me right!). His son, Michele, (Jean-Francois Devigne) is reluctant, as he has other things on his mind. Michele is just embarking in a new relationship with a local girl, Jocelyne, and is mostly preoccupied with this, rather than his father’s daft schemes. But eventually his father badgers him into training for the competition. To help with the training, and hopefully win the competition, Roger enlists the help of Richard (Bouli Lanners) as his son’s coach.
Meanwhile Rogers quiet and reserved daughter, Luise, finds a very amusing way to strike up a friendship with Felix the quiet, gentle, pigeon fancier next door. And even though later on Felix’s fellow competitors in homing pigeon competition will ridicule and accuse Felix of other things than friendship. This is just sour grapes on their part, as Felix always beats them in competition, well rather his prize pigeon does. But Felix and Luise’s friendship is totally innocent and very moving.
After all the training and all the badgering, Michele looses the competition, and in retaliation to his fathers fury and condemnation of his attempt, steals the prize car, and after a very short journey drives it up a tree! Michele’s resulting coma from this accident brings everyone together. Jocelyne marries Michele whilst he is in his coma. His father asks Felix to sell the cutlery that he and his wife received as a wedding present. Richard the philosophical coach comes up with many wacky schemes to try and rouse Michele from his coma.
Les Convoyeurs Attendent juxtaposes gentle humour against painful drama. Roger Closset is overbearing and embarrassing in his manner, and in the way he bullies his son into training and eventual competition
The actual competition with it’s exhaustion and cheating is reminiscent of “The Cyclist” (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Iran), but at least in “The Cyclist”, the motive is higher (to pay for the hospital bill of the cyclist’s sick wife) where here, the motive is just to win a car!
The film is dark and sombre paced, and with the daughter Luise, for a time it felt as if the film was going to be another “Mouchette” (Robert Bresson, 1967), and though there are some quite painful scenes. It is not quite as dark, and does not have the obvious, but shocking, deep black conclusion that “Mouchette” does.
A lot of this feeling comes from the black and white photography. The industrial estate setting is dark and depressing like the rural setting in “Mouchette”, the seemingly constant rain does not help in not drawing a line of connection between the two.
Roger and Richard (with his endless fictitious, life and sport philosophies from “America”) come across hilariously, a lot like the “know-it-all/know-nothing” town advisors in Jacques Tati’s magnificent Jour de Fete (1947). Who sit around and do little, but become extremely animated as soon as there seems to be something that there intervention and commentary are needed on.
Though, too eventually see Roger and Richard do everything that they can to try and jolt Michele out of his coma, even with the appearance of an Elvis impersonator, enlisted to sing to Michele, may still seem like one of their crazy schemes. But the fact that they are wholeheartedly trying to bring Michele back to the world is very moving.
The steps Felix takes after Roger asks for his help was amazing, it totally blows you away, and he does it with such calm quiet composure, when you know he is torn apart inside. The quiet pain of Felix is equaled by that of Luise. Their friendship is mostly wordless, but their faces express every single emotion and all understanding of the pain within each other.
The film has a very upbeat ending, very pleasing. Roger is brought to realise what is most important, his family! His dreams of possessing a car may be unnecessary and capitalistic, when here during his son’s coma, he sells the cutlery, if he had had the car a this point (although this was impossible as the story would not have got here without the crash and the coma) he would have sold the car too! You feel cleansed after leaving the theatre, the film provides a great catharsis which so much of today’s cinema is lacking. And if you leave without a smile on your face, get a doctor to check your pulse! This film is also very different from Benoit Poelvoorde’s first movie, Man Bites Dog (1997) (see below) where he plays a funny, and charismatic but ultimately vile serial killer.
Review by Giovanni Pistachio, Giovanni can be contacted at: –
© Owned Giovanni Pistachio.