A mild-mannered translator looks back at a bittersweet romance in “See Ya Later, Pollux,” an entertaining and affecting tragicomedy that sustains an original tone parsed with plenty of offbeat humor. Up against a cavalcade of French releases in one of the most crowded summers in recent memory, pic has struggled to find an audience since opening in early July, but has a lot going for it. Helming debut by cinematographer Luc Pages is a promising fest item with a standout lead perf by Gad Elmaleh.
Halvard Sanz (Elmaleh) is on a Nile cruise reminiscing about his love life — and especially his decisive encounter with the flighty Pollux (Cecile de France) who, via a misunderstanding, vanished the eventful night they met. Obsessed with finding her again, Halvard, who speaks only French but manages to translate English books by constantly consulting a dictionary, drinks a lot of alcohol and sleeps with a series of Parisian women until he gets a second chance with whom he believes to be his dream girl.
Halvard’s sister is dating the host of a wildlife-themed TV show. This facilitates an amusing parallel strand in which the behavior of human characters is likened to rituals of the animal kingdom.
Relying heavily on flashbacks, Pages deploys a very nice narrative symmetry and a hearty helping of close-ups. Strange but effective widescreen imagery is a mix of aggressively grainy DV footage (for flashbacks), old-fashioned video (TV-style wildlife docus), step-printed interludes that look like action painting (transitions), and polished 35mm (the present).
De France, simultaneously onscreen as the title lass in “Irene” and in the ensemble cast of summer hit “Euro Pudding” (“L’auberge espagnole”), is hauntingly adorable. However, it’s Elmaleh’s yearning and nuanced perf that lingers in the memory. An extended seg in which his character offers hospitality to a wacko and invasive street person is a capsule tour-de-force of no good deed going unpunished.