Review: ‘Lightweight’

Three-quarters engaging and one quarter disconcertingly conventional, Jean-Pierre Ameris'"Lightweight" is a punchy portrait of an amateur boxer who works in a funeral home. Pic achieves an effective visual balance between the energy of the ring and the solemnity of the dead. But gritty believable tale fails when it goes off into syrupy territory.

Three-quarters engaging and one quarter disconcertingly conventional, Jean-Pierre Ameris'”Lightweight” is a punchy portrait of an amateur boxer who works in a funeral home. Pic achieves an effective visual balance between the energy of the ring and the solemnity of the dead, while proving once again that rising thesp Nicolas Duvauchelle has genuine screen presence. But gritty, touching and mostly believable tale fails when it goes off into syrupy territory, leaving one wondering if the helmer took a surprise left hook. Pic could be “cured” by lopping off the ending, which seems to have been tacked on by mischievous elves.

Recently orphaned Antoine (Duvauchelle) is a talented boxer in a Paris ‘burb. His coach, known to all as “Chief” (Bernard Campan), is both best friend and surrogate father to his shy, well-mannered but slightly troubled protege. The two dine at a Chinese restaurant where an immediate, intense attraction forms between Antoine and the owner’s slinky, poised daughter Su (Mai Anh Le). Their whirlwind courtship and lovemaking scenes have a refreshingly convincing expediency.

Antoine, who enjoys his work at the funeral parlor, tells Su’s Chinese-speaking parents that it’s a job with a future since there will soon be a “death boom” as potent as the baby boom of the 1950s. Things seem to be working out for Antoine, but he is haunted by memories of his childhood, which surge forth in Super-8.

When Antoine’s sister (Sophie Quinton) decides to get married and Chief announces he’ll be moving south for the good of his family, Antoine lashes out as if the world is one big punching bag.

Scenes in connection with Antoine’s job are laced with matter of fact poignancy. Working class and middle-class settings are never too sordid or too slick. Blend of action and tenderness works until screenplay finds itself on the ropes in the home stretch.

Lightweight

Un Certain Regard / France

Production

A Pan-Europeenne release of a Pan-Europeenne Production, France 2 Cinema, Saga Production production with participation of Canal Plus, France 2 and ABS. (International sales: Flach Pyramide Intl., Paris.) Produced by Philippe Godeau. Directed, written by Jean-Pierre Ameris, based on a novel by Olivier Adam.

Crew

Camera (color, DV and Super-8 to 35mm), Severine Barde; editor, Katya Chelli; music, Doctor L.; production designer, Nicolas Chik; costume designer, Anne Schotte; sound (Dolby), Erwan Kerzanet, Francois Musy; associate producer, Bernard Campan; assistant director, Nils Hamelin; casting, Tatiana Vialle. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard), May 19, 2004. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Antoine - Nicolas Duvauchelle Chief - Bernard Campan Su - Mai Anh Le Claire - Sophie Quinton
With: Elisabeth Commelin, Frederic Gorny.
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