French cinema’s ability to whip up adultery, dilemmas of sexual orientation, and risqué hanky-panky into confections of droll whimsicality is evident in Cote D’Azur (also known as Crustacés et Coquillages, which translates into English as Seafood and Seashells), Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s pleasantly playful jaunt about the romantic dalliances of a family on summer vacation in the idyllic coastal countryside. Béatrix (5x2’s Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) is cheating on husband Marc (Gilbert Melki) because it affords her a measure of youthful excitement in an otherwise thoroughly adult life monitoring the activities of daughter Laura (Sabrina Seyvecou)—who’s spending her holiday with her biker boyfriend—and son Charly (Romain Torres), whom Béatrix suspects is homosexual because of his relationship with the openly gay Martin (Édouard Collin). Compounding these familial matters is Marc’s discomfort with the thought of Charly’s same-sex inclinations, an unease potentially created by his own suppressed longings for a plumber named Didier (Jean-Marc Barr) who likes to frequent the rocky bluff where gay men cruise for one-night stands. If never quite uproarious, Ducastel and Martineau’s melodious film has a blithe, mirthful bounce that reaches its apex during a seductively jovial song-and-dance number performed by Béatrix and Marc for their bemused son. And though its story about escaping self-imposed “shells” in order to embrace one’s true identity occasionally succumbs to repetitive motif-management—one quickly grows tired of a shower’s masturbation-conducive hot water (or lack thereof) as a symbolic representation of characters’ amorous liberation—there’s nonetheless an intoxicating breeziness to the libidinous proceedings. Aphrodisiac shellfish called violets are the nominal catalyst for Cote D’Azur’s sweetly comedic exploration of people’s ill-advised penchant for self-denial, as well as the potential catharsis and ecstasy that can come from honesty and a little imagination. But it’s the filmmakers’ gentle, humanistic affection for their dysfunctional clan that allows the film to moderately rise above its somewhat rote tale of Riviera bed-hopping. Well, that and the entrancingly alluring Bruni-Tedeschi’s Béatrix, the type of open-minded middle-aged MILF about whom non-related (and heterosexual) teenage boys might dream of while pulling the pud in the bathroom.
One of Strand Releasing’s best-looking videos; the image is not as vibrant as I remembered it on the big screen, but the print is very clean. The audio is clear but sounds a little overmodulated; I had to turn down the volume just to remotely enjoy it.
A theatrical trailer for the film and previews of other Strand Releasing Home Video titles: Ellie Parker, Head-On, Tony Takitani, and Loggerheads.
A feisty sex comedy of errors. It doesn’t break any ground, but it still has its charms.