Adultery and its consequences, fellatio in tight quarters and inspired fraud loom large in one-man band Claude Lelouch’s latest confection, “Tout Ca … pour ca!” Congenial thesping gets higher marks than contrived tale that interweaves the romantic imbroglios of five couples from various walks of life. Lelouch’s 33 rd film has been a steady draw since its June release.
Lelouch opted for a light contemporary story after “La Belle histoire,” his biblical times-to-the-present epic about Christ, gypsies, bees and the transmigration of souls, failed to set the world on fire. Hence the title.
New pic celebrates the serendipity that life may well offer, but with, one hopes and prays, a better soundtrack. (Although Lelouch has a fine eye for buoyant widescreen camera work and a fair knack for dialogue, he has a tin ear when it comes to gauging how much audiences might want to hear tone-deaf thesps break into song.)
At pic’s outset, three working-class schnooks — cab driver Gerard Darmon, hairdresser Jacques Gamblin and waiter Vincent Lindon — are in prison, where lawyer Marie-Sophie L. is trying to get their convoluted stories straight. It is gradually revealed that all three, driven slightly nuts by bad breaks related to the women in their lives, ended up on the lam in vacation-time France, fleecing tourists via an ingenious series of improvised scams.
Parallel saga concerns judge Francis Huster, who is married to gorgeous and adoring ballerina Alessandra Martines but is having an affair with lawyer Marie-Sophie L., who is married to unsuspecting fellow lawyer Fabrice Luchini. Elaborate interlocking flashbacks reveal that while the hard-luck trio were getting into hot water, the two upscale couples were scaling Mont Blanc and straining their marriages.
Pic sets out to show that Huster cannot presume to judge the love-addled trio in quite the same way after his own motivations were put to the test by thoughtlessly alienating his devoted wife. As always, Lelouch takes glee in lensing his actor pals in improbable situations and, as the narrative careens around, his enthusiasm is contagious. But the whole thing hangs together by cotton candy threads that exhaust the viewer’s suspension-of-disbelief mechanism.
Although pic is riddled with contextual references to oral sex — an awkwardly amusing episode with the tent-confined climbers earned some local notoriety — it is the prison-bound trio’s clever schemes for acquiring money, meals and luxury accommodations that entertain best.
There is a frankly middle-aged, strangely wholesome undercurrent of voyeurism in the scenes of Martines rubbing oil into her shapely breasts or dancing in the nude. Lindon’s wounded puppy-dog expression grows tiresome, as does the closing waltz. But Lelouch’s energetic, often clumsy determination to tell broad human stories wins out in the end.