February 7, 2010By Paris UpdateArchive

On the Road Again

Bouli Lanners stars in the film he wrote and directed.

You would think that the road movie genre is well past its sell-by date, but again and again interesting variations on the theme turn up. Eldorado, a new Franco-Belgian film written, directed by and starring Bouli Lanners, is a real gem.

Although Eldorado is clearly inspired by the theater of Samuel Beckett, the film still manages to be original and disturbing. The only thing that is not fresh and distinctive about it is its title. No modern movie called Eldorado is going to be about anything other than broken dreams.

The plot is sparse. Yvan (Lanners), a restorer of old American cars, discovers a young man, Elie (Fabrice Adde), breaking into his car (the only one on the street not protected by a guard dog). Instead of accosting him or having him arrested, Yvan embarks on a trip with Elie (who turns out to be called Didier) through the sometimes bleak, sometimes beautiful Belgian countryside, meeting along the way a collection of absurd and extraordinary characters, including an old man who collects cars belonging to people who have committed suicide, Elie’s lonely mother and a nudist called Alain Delon.

The truncated dialogue and the metaphysical questions that lie behind much of the two protagonists’ conversations vividly recall Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot. In one exceptionally well-written exchange, after they bathe in a freezing river, Yvan asks Elie what he is hoping to do. Elie replies that he hopes to put on his socks. Yvan’s explanation that he is talking about “l’absolu” (the absolute) is both touching and humorous.

Inevitably, the two central characters learn more about each other as the story progresses, but at no time does the film lapse into sentimentality, even though Yvan remembers his childhood in one moving flashback. I was especially relieved that the movie’s ending was just as resolutely unsentimental

Visually, Eldorado is memorable and strikingly desolate. The two central actors are impeccable, the direction is excellent, and the writing is both poetic and poignant.

James Gascoigne

© 2008 Paris Update

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