Review: ‘Friday Or Another Day’

An adaptation of a novel by Michel Tournier, itself a riff on Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe," "Friday or Another Day" strands an 18th-century French thesp on a remote Pacific island with a native dubbed Friday and a mutt. Although the script puts a soft post-colonial spin on the core story, sophomore pic by French helmer Yvan Le Moine lacks the big ideas, tension and do-it-yourself tips provided by similar survivalist fare like "Castaway." Despite decorative images and a solid lead perf by Nahon, the attenuated pace will prevent "Friday" from finding many berths offshore.

An adaptation of a novel by Michel Tournier, itself a riff on Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe,” “Friday or Another Day” strands an 18th-century French thesp (Philippe Nahon) on a remote Pacific island with a native dubbed Friday and a mutt. Although the script puts a soft post-colonial spin on the core story, sophomore pic by French helmer Yvan Le Moine (“The Red Dwarf”) lacks the big ideas, tension and do-it-yourself tips provided by similar survivalist fare like “Castaway.” Despite decorative images and a solid lead perf by Nahon, the attenuated pace will prevent “Friday” from finding many berths offshore.

The toast of the Comedie Francaise, actor Philippe de Nohan (Nahon) survives a shipwreck, along with a pooch named Tenn, and washes up on a deserted island somewhere beyond the coast of Chile in 1759. Well-stocked with provisions from the wreck, the peculiarly ingenious thesp builds a boat using branches and spare planks but can’t launch it. Stuck, he embarks on the usual castaway movie activities: constructing a shelter, writing a journal, and losing his sense of reality.

Just when he’s about to go totally bonkers, a gaggle of natives arrives on the island to sacrifice one of their members (Alain Moraida, who looks more African than Polynesian). Philippe rescues him, names him Friday (or “Vendredi” in the original French) and tries to establish a colonial relationship in miniature, despite his suspicions that Friday is mocking him.

There’s little conflict here to add grit to the action — even the elements seem fairly clement. Things come pretty easily to these castaways, from lighting fires to establishing harmony.

Supporting perfs are passable but not wowing, with Ornella Muti in a minor role as Nohan’s mother recollected in flashback, and Hanna Schygulla as a ship’s lady of easy virtue.

Costume and make-up rep standout elements in sturdy tech package.

Friday Or Another Day

Belgium-France-Italy-Slovakia

Production

An A.A. Les Films Belge, Cosmokino (Belgium)/Artisan Films (France)/Classic SRL (Italy)/C&C Partners-Vera Prods. (Slovakia) presentation, in association with Riba Film, Iota Production, Luna Blue Film, with the support of Eurimages, Centre du Cinema de la Communaute Francaise de Belgique, Teledistributeurs Wallons, Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds, Promimage, the National Lottery/EVS Broadcast Equipment, XDC, the Reunion Region, Fonds Dom du CNC. (International sales, F for Film, Vernon, France.) Produced by Yvan Le Moine. Executive producers, Fred Premel, Serge Kestemont. Co-producers, Amedeo Pagani, Rudolf Mestdagh, Vicky Novasadova. Directed,written by Yvan Le Moine, based on a novel by Michel Tournier.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Danny Elsen; editor, Matyas Veress; music, Georges Van Dam; art director, Philippe Graff; costumes, Florence Drachsler; sound (DTS), Ricardo Castro, Fred Demolder, Julie Brenta. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 11, 2005. Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Philippe Nahon, Alain Moraida, Ornella Muti, Hanna Schygulla. (French dialogue)
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