This was a film I was initially going to discuss in my Mini-Review Round-Up. However, the review grew such that the ‘mini’ tag didn’t really fit anymore. This is a film that has not seen North American release and has only been out on Region 2 Blu-Ray on DVD. These titles are still viewable in other regions on computers or region-free players. I discuss that here.
I found this film through an importer on Amazon, and as I will describe below it goes above and beyond the seemingly simple call of its synopsis.
With a film such as Allez, Eddy! there are with its various components, which prescribe certain plot points and confrontations. However, what is unique about the film is the handling of said situations, not necessarily the situations themselves. Also, adding to the distinctive palate of the film is the combination of these situations.
To be a bit more specific, in this film you have: the tradition vs. advancement plot of the family-owned butcher shop versus the new supermarket, which in the setting of this tale is a new concept in an of itself. Then you also have the underdog sports story of a kid who comes out of nowhere to shock his hometown in emulation of his hero. Intermingled with those concepts is a family drama, but lastly you have the tale of an isolated child. The cause of his isolation is a malady that could be the cause for much potty humor, but is for the most part handled deftly and delicately. Already upon combining these things you can see this film is anything but run-of-the-mill.
All those items are tethered to one another so there’s no feeling of the film being disjointed as there is a unity to it all; a common thread. There are other subplots that could be touched upon, but its better that those be discovered in the film. Aside from their connection what makes the handling of these themes and plots unique is that things don’t always turn out as you expect or occur when you expect. The film sets you up believing there will be a clichéd climax or sequence and pulls a reverse on you at the last second.
So on a narrative, and more intellectual, level it is intriguing. However, it also captures you viscerally with the varied and wondrous performances of the cast. They elicited from me all the emotions desired. As viewers we are constantly put in a place of being ‘for’ or ‘against’ a character in a scene. Empathy and understanding throughout a film, even with character you dislike or are mad at, is rare. This film achieves that engagement. Regardless of how characters are designed to affect you, you understand them. And within a film that focuses mainly on a family dynamic that’s quite a feat, for even though you may not like the way a family behaves individually at times, or toward each other, the striven for reconciliations are stronger if you desire them for the characters as well.
So this film engages on those two levels, however, nearly from the start it also engages the imagination, which combines the intellect and the visceral in a number of ways. It achieves this engagement through the stylized, self-contained, imagined depictions of stories Freddy’s mother tells him. They are mainly tall tales of her fashioning designed to reinforce her rules but they do have a resonance later, and do play into the pure wonder of storytelling, which should be the foundation of all cinema, and ultimately art.
Oh, yes, and if you look at the synopsis much of the initial conflict is not only caused by Freddy’s wanting to be out of the house unattended, which is forbidden, but also his entering a supermarket-sponsored bike race, which is doubly forbidden. Thus, there’s the sports element perhaps 5th or 6th down the pecking order of things that stand out in this film. This makes it a film that features sports rather than a sports film, but it does that brilliantly. It uses Eddy Merckx’s quest for a 6th Tour de France title not only as a backdrop for the events of that summer, but also at one point as a tremendously artful parallel in a cross-cut sequence. There are other ways in which cycling is folded into the mix that are creative, but I will leave those as a surprise as well.
Allez, Eddy! plays all the right emotional notes throughout such that it can even earn a more subdued end quite well. It is uniquely beautiful, at times touching and warm, at times hilarious, often sad and empathy-inducing film that’s quite nearly always spot-on. It’s one of those films I come across once in a while that got better as I sat down to write about it. An extraordinarily well made film.
A case of caveat emptor for those who seek out foreign region discs is that typically bonus features are not subtitled. Another word to the wise is if you do start scouring resellers, or foreign Amazon stores, become familiar with the words for “subtitles” and “English” in each. It’s usually fairly apparent. As per usual, the deleted scenes here are in Flemish and not subtitled. I confirmed that fact, but may see if they translate visually. So if you speak the language the film is in, as I speak Portuguese, you’ll get by, otherwise it’s good to keep in mind.
One very great bonus feature is a compelling, quirky and original short film called Vincent. The short is vaguely reminiscent of the early works of Robert Rodriguez, and you can clearly see the seeds for Allez, Eddy! being sewn in the style, content and tone.
Unless, it actually comes to region 1 at some point it won’t be a cheap or easy find, but it’s well worth it if you’re compelled to see it.