Also with: Eric Savin, Sherif Scouri, Aude Amiot, Florence Joubert.
Playwright and theater director Xavier Durringer’s “La Nage Indienne” is a leisurely character study of argumentative underachievers in search of a low-rent oasis in their rudderless lives. Despite fine perfs, offshore prospects beyond fests seem limited.
Central threesome is attractive stripper Clara (Karin Viard), mild-mannered auto mechanic Max (Gerald Laroche, in an affecting, memorable perf) and Clara’s temperamental b.f., Loockeed (Antoine Chappey). With Clara in tow, the two men set off south for a better, if more precarious, life beside Lake Annecy in the Alps, where an army-bound buddy guards pleasure boats in dry dock.
Pic strings together episodes including Clara’s toothache-plagued brother and his combative g.f.: Max’s banal yet bittersweet courtship of a perky grocery cashier, and the tragicomic slaughter of a baby lamb at the mountain retreat.
The bond of friendship between the men — in their own little world of a car, a woman, cigarettes and a bit of money — is difficult to grasp. Plucky Max, whose inner strength is gradually revealed, makes endless concessions to the congenitally jealous, sort-tempered Loockeed. Clara takes her lumps.
Pic is like a working-class 1990s skeleton of “Jules and Jim,” stripped of charm and charisma — a story of one woman and two fast friends without the flair for epic betrayal. Taunting and baiting are the primary modes of expression by the three leads, with Max the closest thing to a mensch. Photography conveys a true sense of place, to which crummy bric-a-brac and mismatched garb add bull’s-eye authenticity. The well-incorporated score of contempo tunes ranges from soothing to grating. French title literally means “Sidestroke” (the swimming style), but also carries connotations of getting by on one’s wits.