October 6, 2008

VIFF film review: Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis

This afternoon I saw my second* feature-length film at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (Welcome to the Sticks), directed by Dany Boon, who also plays one of the main characters.

In a desperate attempt to appease his unhappy wife with a transfer to the French Riviera, Philippe Abrams (played by the very charming Kad Merad) instead gets sent to the middle of nowhere. The town of Bergues to be exact, in a remote corner of northern France called the Pas de Calais. Here the locals have their own way of doing things, and saying things. The townspeople speak a dialect called Ch’ti, which to Philippe’s ears is little more than gibberish. At first, Philippe has trouble understanding what anyone has to say, let alone being able to make any friends. But as the rural eccentrics gradually worm their way into his affections, he comes to appreciate the gentle pace of life in his new home. — From The Guardian, via VIFF.org

The film is absolutely riotous! I left the theatre with an aching smile and stomach from nearly 2 solid hours of laughter. The cast delivers humour unique to the French yet appealing to anyone, as was obvious by the packed, roaring theatre. Difficulties in communication between Abrams and his Ch’timi employees are a significant portion of the humour, but there are many other moments ranging from subtle to outrageous.

Unique and charming characters bring life to an unlikely setting that has its own romance and history. Excellent acting and writing make this unique comedy a heart-warming and enchanting experience I wish I could see a second time. It’s unbelievably funny, with realistic, irresistibly quirky characters who coax Philippe out of his shell with their friendship and hospitality.

The film is screening again this Thursday at 9:30 pm at Empire Granville. Do see it if you have a chance, and be sure to purchase tickets in advance because it will undoubtedly sell out!

* Sunday’s feature-length film, Sleep Furiously, and 5 shorts (MAPS program) will be reviewed later.