Youthful idealism and the passionate political beliefs of the post-hippy generation fuel “Off to the Revolution by a 2CV,” a breezy but insubstantial road movie about a car journey from Paris to Lisbon in 1975, when the Socialist revolution had just brought an end to 48 years of Fascist dictatorship. In the wake of tepid critical buzz in Locarno, the film took observers by surprise by nabbing three awards including the Golden Leopard amid widely reported dissent by two jurors. Substituting a soundtrack of ’70s standards and an easy mood of romantic, feel-good nostalgia for any particular insight into the pursuit of peace, love and freedom by Euro youth in that period, the film reps a soft discovery for a major fest laureate and seems headed for marginal commercial impact.
Based on the novel by co-scripter Marco Ferrari, “Revolution” conjures some of the same generational spirit of early films by Gabriele Salvatores (“Mediterraneo”) but lacks fully developed characters and a satisfying emotional arc. It seems designed to seduce young auds with a burgeoning political conscience — Locarno kudos included the youth jury’s top prize — with its generically unchallenging leftist ideology hitched to a personal journey of sexual freedom and discovery, solidarity and fraternity.
Central character is Victor (Andoni Gracia), a twentysomething Portuguese student from an anti-Fascist family, living in self-imposed exile in Paris for the past seven years. Upon learning that the Fascist leaders have been overthrown in Portugal, Victor spurs his womanizing Italian flatmate, Marco (newcomer Adriano Giannini, son of veteran thesp Giancarlo Giannini), into action, setting off in the latter’s battered yellow Citroen 2CV to be a part of the party in Lisbon. Passing through Bordeaux, they pick up Claire (Gwenaelle Simon), a now-married former flame of Victor’s, for whom he still carries a torch.
Friction between the two male friends is sparked by the revelation that Marco and Claire slept together during her relationship with Victor. And difficulties at the Spanish border force them to detour along backroads in order to avoid authorities. The tensions of the journey prompt each of them to reflect on their own situation: Victor on his mixed feelings about returning home; Marco on his inability to commit; and Claire on the constrictions of family life, prompting her to seduce both her traveling partners.
Having each formed a picture in their heads of the revolutionary celebrations that await them, the group’s arrival in newly liberated Portugal is a joyful one at first as they go to stay in a border town farmhouse with Victor’s feisty uncle (Francisco Rabal), a confirmed radical finally able to express his views openly. But their tardy entry into Lisbon brings a bittersweet conclusion when they find life has already returned to normal.
There’s a certain relaxed charm to director Maurizio Sciarra’s gentle chronicle of the trio’s journey, but the film skirts timidly around the edges of its themes without ever sinking its teeth into them. Consequently, the lightweight drama is pleasant enough but not overly involving.
Leads also are agreeable despite the script’s shortage of character depth and the lack of shape in their emotional journeys. Gracia, who won Locarno’s Bronze Leopard for best actor, makes the biggest impression as the most introspective and sensitive of the three. Arnaldo Catinari’s sharp, agile widescreen lensing makes good use of the varied landscapes and their rich color palette without resorting to scenic tourism.