Reviews - On Tour
Reviewed By John Stakes
Mathieu (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) Amalric’s 2010 film Tournée centred on a just past their sell-by date neo-burlesque troupe led by Amalric himself playing Joachim Zand, a semi-washed up producer who persuades his mixed bag of performers to return with him to his native France with the promise of a hot-spot finale in Paris.
Amalric’s inspiration for the film was Collette’s autobiography of her early 20th century experiences in French music halls, coupled with his own interest in the art of neo-burlesque which is a modern interpretation of burlesque combining striptease with comedy and a resistance to social pressures. Amalric wanted to capture the sentiment of burlesque in a modern setting and, in the light of the death of independent film producer Humbert Balsan, was fascinated by the role of the
producer and how, in this context, he keeps his troupe together.
The troupe members play themselves. And what a line-up of delicious names to whet anyone’s appetite for titillation: Mimi Le Meaux, Kitten on the Keys, Dirty Martini, Evie Lovelle and Roky Roulette! Little do they all know that Zand’s past is going to catch up with him as they land on French soil to strut their routines in various French port venues including Nantes, La Rochelle and Bordeaux. Old feuds and rivalries surface which eventually lead to the loss of the date in Paris.
Amalric had researched his movie by first watching a neo-burlesque show in Nantes in 2007 followed by many others in the USA. His budget was limited to 3.5 million euros so he drafted in the local population to fill his venues and wrote the script himself. He also took the starring role when he could not find a suitable leading man willing to take on the part.
In the early scenes Amalric faithfully captured the seediness and jaded sparkle of these provincial music hall venues and the everyday banter between his motley performers using it seemed a mixture of scripted and improvised dialogue. But as Zand rushes everywhere trying to get funding to keep his little fantasy world alive, we came to learn he was a loser and not a lovable one having failed in business and his personal life in ruins
Amalric’s decision to star and direct began to work against him as he became too much the focus of attention. Early fascination with the group’s larger than life existence rather faded into the background as Zand’s grubby, self-centred and inadequate character took centre stage. Amalric’s screenplay was under-scripted so we learned little more about his troupe and opportunities to develop comedy and drama were not taken up. Whilst his episodic approach reflected the tour’s day to day life and lack of managerial direction, an undernourished feel crept in as the rambling story began to wander aimlessly despite this reviewer’s best efforts to will the picture on to a level of full engagement. The film ended as abruptly as it had begun and its much vaunted denouement did not materialise. At least the music hall audiences remained enthusiastic throughout and some of the routines will linger in the memory!
This road movie with a difference was first shown in Cannes in 2010 and came away with the critics’ prize for best film. Amalric also picked up the award for best director apparently much to everyone’s surprise. For this reviewer here was a film brimming with potential which, rather like the stripping, was teasingly never quite realised! Amalric can next be seen alongside Juliette Binoche apparently in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis
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