The 2018 French Film Festival premieres in Melbourne this week, and I caught a preview of Rock’n Roll, the latest film from French actor, director and screenwriter Guillaume Canet.
A humorous and self deprecating self portrait, Canet plays himself in this comedy, alongside Marion Cotillard, his real life partner. Satirising his acting life, and love of horses, the film follows Canet’s life as it starts to deteriorate when a twenty-something actress he is shooting with says he is no longer ‘rock’. A stunned Canet tries to gauge what she means, to which alluring model-turned-actress Camille Rowe goes on to further horrify him by saying that, in fact, he was never really cool to begin with, and that he has subsequently moved down the list of actors young women would like to sleep with.
This triggers a hilarious midlife crisis for the forty-three year old, which declines further and further into absurdity and at times generating cringe-inducing compassion for the star’s rapidly shattering ego.
Rock’n Roll is a frolicking stroll through the excesses of celebrity, from the 20th to the 21st Century, dealing with issues from; keeping up social media appearances, to vanity and old age, personified hilariously in a parody of the modern Californian botox culture, that will make you chew your fingernails with empathetic disgust.
The film asks the often asked, but rarely well answered question, ‘What is the true rock and roll ethos? Is rock and roll dead? And if not, what has it evolved into now?’
There are various cameo’s in the film including Gilles Lellouche and Yvan Attal. One of the greatest scenes in the film comes in the form of a cameo from Johnny Hallyday, the ‘French Elvis’ who embodied rock and roll in France for many decades, and who died in December 2017. The scene is a fitting tribute to Hallyday, who demands to go down with a rock and roll lifestyle, tumbling down stairs, mentoring Cotillard on how not to care, sneaking in cheeky cigarettes behind his wife’s back, and crooning his last swan song through prison bars in his basement.
Canet’s Gallic performance is so over the top and absurd, not soured with self pitying, it is at times comparable to the loud and hilarious self pessimistic genius of Larry David in shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s a film rife with shadows of the past, and at times suffers from the remorseful old age that it parodies. Nonetheless, all this is forgiven by the fact that the film never takes itself too seriously.
According to the film’s creators, the film is based on Canet and Cotillard’s real life together.