Adventures Of Felix

on June 19, 2001 by Francesca Dinglasan
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Quite fittingly, filmmaking partners Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau ("Jeanne and the Perfect Guy") open their latest collaborative effort "Adventures of Felix" with France's Normandy Coast in the background and close with a shot depicting a sweeping view of the Mediterranean Sea off the port city of Marseilles. Respectively representing the far-north and far-south of the country--as well as the starting and ending points of the titular adventures--the movie cleverly and subtly portrays a diversified aspect of contemporary French society as observed by, and reflected in, the eponymous character.

Easygoing and content in his life with his steady boyfriend Daniel (Pierre-Loup Rajot), Felix (Sami Bouajila) decides to make the most of his layoff from work by embarking on a trip to find the father he's never met. Old letters indicate that the mysterious paternal figure is living in Marseilles, and thus begins Felix's journey across hundreds of miles of the Hexagon. Along the way, he befriends a number of colorful characters who come to symbolize a sort of extended family. Included in the group are a "little brother" (Charly Sergue) who is eager to experience his first homosexual tryst; a "grandmother" (Patachou) who reminisces about her unfulfilling marriage; a "cousin" (Philippe Garziano) whose shared interest in kites with Felix leads to a closer union; and a "sister" (Ariane Ascaride) whose multi-fathered children change Felix's perspective as to what constitutes a family.

Like the United States, France has long prided itself on being a republic that considers individuality and tolerance to be national principles, and "Adventures in Felix" is an intriguing take on how well these ideals actually stand up. Besides Felix being openly gay, he is of Arab descent (though France born-and-bred), which brings up issues of identity and race, especially when he enters the ultraconservative and xenophobic-prone South. The fact that Felix is also HIV-positive brings the film dangerously close to the realm of overt didacticism, which--to its great credit--it skillfully avoids, primarily through a healthy dose of humor. For example, when preparing to ingest the assortment of pills that comprise his AIDS medication cocktail, Felix and his "grandmother," who is taking her own set of age-related pills, compare the size and color of their respective drugs.

Though the film's sequences are notably uneven--"grandmother" and "sister" soar miles above the gratuitous-feeling "cousin"--Bouajila's admirable performance and Ducastel and Martineau's witty script help make this "Adventure" worthwhile. Starring Sami Bouajila, Patachou, Ariane Ascaride, Pierre-Loup Rajot, Charly Sergue, Maurice Benichou and Philippe Garziano. Directed and written by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau. Produced by Philippe Martin. A Winstar release. Comedy/Drama. French-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 95 min.

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