The jubilantly silly “Accidental Saint” is a keenly limned dose of irreverent Gallic humor with a wacky tone that keeps viewers firmly on the side of its loser protags. Comic book sensibility applied to an urban fairy tale in which a none-too-bright homeless lug ends up with a genuine halo atop his unkempt head is modest, concise and often laugh-out-loud funny. Fests should seek this one out.
In the slums of Lyon, Raph (Didier Becchetti) is an enterprising Ratso Rizzo to the dopey and trusting Joe Buck of Swan (Fred Saurel). The two live in an unheated shack, surviving hand to mouth. Raph’s idea of a brilliant score is to swallow the coins a customer leaves for a bartender.
The night before Christmas, wan, pillow-lipped Camilla (Melanie Thierry) arrives by bus to apply for a waitress job at a sleazy strip joint managed by Tonio (Bernard Campan). Astride their scooter, Raph and Swan are planning to ride by and grab Camilla’s handbag when a mugger beats them to it. But Swan unwittingly rescues and returns the bag. The result: A neon halo appears over his large greasy noggin.
Swan has been transformed into a saint whether he likes it or not. But Raph is distraught: The hefty Swan was the pathetic duo’s muscle and saints aren’t allowed to fight. However, when Swan inadvertently performs a genuine miracle, local mob kingpin Benz (Jean-Christophe Bouvet) takes an avid interest in the merchandizing opportunities Swan represents.
A Gallic ringer for Tim Roth in full-on weasel mode, Becchetti is perfectly cast opposite Saurel’s serenely dopey Swan. Thierry is adorable as Camilla, the Cinderella-of-the-gutter whom Swan falls for, Beauty and the Beast-style.
Pic’s delectably sordid locations are filtered through a storybook gloss, and Frank Roussel’s ironic score is a perfect counterpoint to the proceedings. Original French title denotes a snack stand in the industrial wasteland where pic (expanded from a short of the same name) is set.