A Parisian couple find rural life is not as stress-free as it's cracked up to be in "Bed and Breakfast," a peculiar hybrid sprinkled with deadpan comic perfs. Daring to suggest that sunny Provence is not necessarily so soothing or idyllic, pic is incredibly French in flavor but not in the standard ways that usually get Gallic movies exported.

AParisian couple find rural life is not as stress-free as it’s cracked up to be in “Bed and Breakfast,” a peculiar hybrid sprinkled with deadpan comic perfs. Daring to suggest that sunny Provence is not necessarily so soothing or idyllic — and that people take their personalities with them no matter where they go — pic is incredibly French in flavor but not in the standard ways that usually get Gallic movies exported. Result is likely to journey to fests that find themselves low on leisurely, quirky ensemblers; gay fests also should take a look.

High-strung Caroline (Marina Fois) and b.f. Bertrand (Philippe Harel) bid Paris goodbye to run a rustic five-room establishment for hikers. The hippy-dippy decor is the first thing to go as Caroline starts relentlessly micro-managing, while sturdy employee Angelique (Annie Gregorio, effortlessly funny) cooks, cleans and shows the new owners the ropes.

Bertrand takes to the region despite assorted setbacks, but Caroline is a fish-out-of-water whose gills are perpetually about to burst. Bertrand also gets along fine with Julien (hunky porn actor Sebastian Barrio, making his legit debut) and Peter (Michael Maloney), a couple who run a snazzier establishment nearby with gay male clientele. Caroline fails to see their charms, either.

When the village elects to celebrate its 1,000th anni with a medieval fair, Caroline takes on the organizing with a vengeance, doing everything from recruiting lepers to forcing local women to cook without modern appliances. The task quickly becomes more demanding than the job she left behind.

Pic’s gags are a little thin on the ground. However, every role shines thanks to excellent casting, even if all the actorly delights don’t quite justify the running time.

Helmer Claude Duty — who made more than 20 shorts before graduating at age 54 to his first feature, the sardonic musical “Hypnotized and Hysterical (Hairstylist Wanted)” — has in the space of two films formed a helmer-thesp symbiosis for the ages with comedienne Fois. Harel, an experienced director in his own right, is a bemused cypher as Bertrand.

Bulle Ogier is a hoot as the mayoress who despairs of ever passing on her olive oil business to her sepulchral, body-pierced niece (“Satanic rock, yes; olives, no,” she summarizes). Olivier Saladin is very funny as Father Robert, a pony-tailed hipster priest whose drug-addiction recovery program takes up residence. And Julie Depardieu is adorable as a porn starlet intent on retiring at the height of her X-rated form.

Widescreen lensing in sunny climes and a pleasant score help to render the romp agreeable.

Bed and Breakfast

France

Production

A Mars Distribution release of a Move Movie presentation of a Move Movie, TF1 Films Prods. production, in association with Invicta Filmworks, with participation of Canal Plus. Produced by Bruno Levy. Co-producer, Matthew Justice. Directed by Claude Duty. Screenplay, Jean-Philippe Barrau, Duty.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), David Johnson; editor, Agnes Mouchel; music, Valmont; art director, Jean-Pierre Clech; costume designer, Anne Schotte; sound (Dolby), Dominique Warnier, Dominique Dalmasso; assistant director, Euris Allaire; casting, Stephane Gaillard, Jeanne Millet, Christophe Istier. Reviewed at Planet Hollywood screening room, Paris, Aug. 5, 2003. Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Caroline - Marina Fois Bertrand - Philippe Harel Angelique - Annie Gregorio Nina Strong - Julie Depardieu Odile De Castellane - Bulle Ogier Julien - Sebastian Barrio Peter - Michael Maloney
With: Nathalie Levy-Lang, Lionel Abelanski, Lea Drucker, Julie Durand, Sylvie Lachat, Olivier Saladin.
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