Keep Running

A misplaced-foreskin comedy set during the pope's 1997 visit to Paris, "Keep Running" is a pleasant but overextended romp against the clock. Pic, which makes gentle points about the force of tradition and organized religion, is a natural for Jewish fests. But apart from the offbeat premise, it's more conventional than helmer Dante Desarthe's quirky first film, "Fast" (1995), would suggest.

A misplaced-foreskin comedy set during the pope’s 1997 visit to Paris, “Keep Running” is a pleasant but overextended romp against the clock. Pic, which makes gentle points about the force of tradition and organized religion, is a natural for Jewish fests. But apart from the offbeat premise, it’s more conventional than helmer Dante Desarthe’s quirky first film, “Fast” (1995), would suggest.

After the ritual circumcision of his newborn son, 23-year-old Jonas (Clemont Sibony) is given the foreskin in a small parcel of tissue and admonished to bury it three days later without fail. On the appointed day, when he remembers his obligation, Jonas is playing keyboards at a bar mitzvah and extricates himself.

Mistakenly convinced that Jonas made eyes at his drunk, buxom wife, Sophie (Emmanuelle Devos), the bar mitzvah boy’s jealous father sends three henchmen to beat him up. Pic chronicles a long night of encounters and obstacles as Jonas gamely tries to fulfill his ancestral task.

Real problems ensue when Jonas comforts the crying Nina (Rona Hartner), a feisty Romanian determined to meet the pope, and accidentally gives her the foreskin-concealing tissue to wipe her eyes. Jonas has to retrieve said foreskin from Nina’s purse and find a suitable place to bury it in an urban landscape where tranquil earth is hard to come by. Jonas (French for “Jonah”) ends up in the contempo equivalent of the belly of a whale, waiting for a miracle.

Narrative remains tasteful despite the concept. Thesping is fine, with Hartner, especially, giving another on-target perf. Lensing, editing and klezmer-inflected score keep the story moving at a jaunty clip. But despite a few engaging developments, tale is a tad too contrived.

Keep Running

(FRANCE)

Production: An MK2 Diffusion release (in France) of a Les Films du Bois Sacre/MK2 Prods./Arte France Cinema production. (International sales: MK2 Diffusion, Paris.) Produced by Fabrice Guez, Marin Karmitz. Directed by Dante Desarthe. Screenplay, Dante Desarthe, Fabrice Guez, Agnes Desarthe. Camera (color), Laurent Machuel; editor, Martine Rousseau; music, David Lascot, Bratsch; costume designer, Anne Schotte; sound (Dolby), Olivier Do Huu, Dominique Lacour; casting, Nathaniele Esther. Reviewed at UGC Normandie, Paris, Dec. 8, 1999. Running time: 84 MIN.

With: With: Clemont Sibony, Rona Hartner, Isaac Sharry, Emmanuelle Devos, Gilbert Levy.

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