Review: ‘Espace Détente’

A raucous workplace comedy with a handful of ideas worth stealing, "Espace Detente" is a purely local ensembler that builds to a finale the Farrelly Brothers might have cooked up if they were French. Film is spun off from Gallic TV item "Camera Cafe," for which co-stars/helmers Bruno Solo and Yvan Le Bolloc'h created episodes around the coffee-break chatter in a mid-sized French firm. Feature rendition makes the most of its nasty-cum-silly approach, but much of the humor feels as specific to France as the 35-hour work week.

A raucous workplace comedy with a handful of ideas worth stealing, “Espace Detente” is a purely local ensembler that builds to a finale the Farrelly Brothers might have cooked up if they were French. Film is spun off from Gallic TV item “Camera Cafe,” for which co-stars/helmers Bruno Solo and Yvan Le Bolloc’h created episodes around the coffee-break chatter in a mid-sized French firm. Feature rendition makes the most of its nasty-cum-silly approach, but much of the humor feels as specific to France as the 35-hour work week.

Locally, pic has been a strong B.O. draw out of the gate Feb. 2, with a hearty 1.7 million admissions in its first month. It’s worth noting the “Camera Cafe” template, which ran for three years on channel M6, has been sold as remake fodder to many international TV markets.

For generations, Geugene Electro Slim has sold an economical home-exercise device. Convinced a far pricier workout station, Body-Compact, is the wave of the future, the company’s staff goes all out to land the contract, making an abrupt transition from sleepy camaraderie and door-to-door sales to cutthroat free-market chicanery.

Star salesman Jean-Claude (Le Bolloc’h) and his buddy Herve (Solo) don’t fit in, once formerly shunned exec Carole (Sylvie Loeillet) cleans up a local homeless bum (Thierry Fremont) and puts him in charge. Latter, strangely enough, speaks Chinese to factories in Taiwan and has a full range of capitalist tricks up his now-tailored sleeves.

Imaginary podunk community’s low-brow demeanor is well portrayed, and office politics keenly skewered, but guffaws will seem more sitcom than bigscreen beyond Gaul.

Espace Détente

France

Production

An ARP Selection release of an M6 Films, Calt Prods., Short Com, Solo Moi, Kenavo, MP Prods. production. (International sales: ARP, Paris.) Produced by Jean-Yves Robin, Bruno Solo, Yvan Le Bolloc'h. Directed by Bruno Solo, Yvan Le Bolloc'h. Screenplay, Alexandre Apergis, Jerome Apergis, Jean-Pierre Pascaud, Frederic Le Bolloc'h, based on the M6 sketches created by Solo, Le Bolloc'h.

Crew

Camera (color), Philippe Guilbert; editor, Nicolas Saunier; music, Pascal Comelade; production designer, Nikos Meletopoulos; costume designer, Pauline Siboni; sound, Kamal Ouazene, Francois Fayard, Eric Tisserand, Williams Schmit; assistant director, Valerie Aragues. Reviewed at UGC Les Halles, Paris, Feb. 21, 2005. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Bruno Solo, Yvan Le Bolloc'h, Thierry Fremont, Sylvie Loeillet, Gerard Chaillou, Shirley Bousquet, Alexandre Pesle, Armelle, Alain Bouzigues, Jeanne Savary, Valerie Decobert, Marc Andreoni, Philippe Cura, Noemie Elbaz-Kapler, Karim Adda, Chantal Neuwirth, Jean-Francois Gallotte.
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