After 2004’s popular and critical hit “L’Esquive” — set in the projects beyond Paris — proved that near-incomprehensible slang and classical French theater can cohabit to excellent effect, along comes “Ze Film” to suggest that the denizens of a low-income housing development can band together to make a 35mm film from scratch. Even if it sputters a bit before the very end, sweetly larcenous comedy has an appealingly creative core. Helmer Guy Jacques, who lived for nearly two decades in the setting depicted, infuses his third feature with just enough cross-generational humor to keep it out of the “strictly youth” ghetto.
Much of this modest pic’s charm resides in the fact the economically disadvantaged protags manage to do something even their well-off and better-connected counterparts would find nearly impossible to achieve. Lower-class and multi-ethnic approach to a federating project is far from deep, but boasts dollops of ingenuity and a positive message.
Garage mechanic Kubrick (Clement Sibony), whose dad (Miki Manojlovic, excellent) plays a microscopic role on a long-running French cop show, makes amateur-format experimental films but dreams of shooting “in 35.” His two best friends Karim (Micky El Mazroui) and Toxic (Dan Herzberg) aren’t really sure what that means, but they’re blindly supportive.
Having slept on a park bench so Karim can use his place for a tryst, Toxic awakens surrounded by a dawn set-up for a pro costume feature shooting on location. Scruffy Toxic is mistaken for a production trainee and when he’s given the keys to a fully loaded truck and told to move it out of the shot, he does — all the way to Bobigny, his humble ‘burb.
Suddenly blessed with a Panaflex camera and all the ingredients of gaffer-and-grip heaven, Kubrick and his buddies cast and shoot their own version of Romeo and Juliet starring the local college-bound Arab babe Soraya (Karina Testa) opposite jovial deal-maker Billou (Lorant Deutsch), with half the neighborhood as support.
When they want a chase scene, filmmakers steal a motorcycle from a police station and roll film as real cops roar off after the brazen perp. Solutions to getting their rushes developed on the sly or lighting up night shots show chuckle-prompting creativity.
Family ties, friendship and romance are all given a more conventional spin than one might wish, but snappy basic premise makes pic worth a look.