The Carriers Are Waiting

             First off, let's deal with the title. It comes from a Belgian figure
     of speech that means being in a state of preparedness. As it originated
     from those who raise and train carrier pigeons - while they await the
     signal to release the birds, the loudspeaker announces "The carriers are
     waiting."

             While there is a character in the movie who does indeed own several
     racers, the title refers metaphorically to the central family in the film. Roger           
      (Benoît Poelvoorde) is the overbearing patriarch who wants to leave a
     mark in the world in some tangible way. He works as a tabloid photographer,
     capturing gruesome accident scenes or taking shots of farmer's holding
     large hailstones. Roger is a petty tyrant and he transfers his own desires
     for glory onto his two children - teenager Michel (Jean-Francois Devigne) and
     eight-year-old Luise (Morgane Simeon). He thinks nothing of having his
     daughter accompany him in his work, exposing her to the "realities" of
     the world - and even encouraging her to steal loaves of bread from a
     truck involved in an accident.

             Roger finds his chance to be remembered when some local merchants
     sponsor a contest to set new world's records. As Roger has no discernible
     talents, he forces Michel to compete - as a door opener. A fairly sensitive
     type, Michel is more content fueling his fascination with Elvis, making
     videotapes of mistakes in old movies (bloopers, anachronisms, etc.) and
     spending time with his girlfriend. Roger, however, has determined Michel
     will set a record and win the top prize, a new car. He bullies and badgers
     the boy and even takes the step of hiring a coach (the amusing Bouli
     Lanners). Watching everything is the childlike neighbor Felix (Philip
     Grand'Henry), whose main passion is breeding champion pigeons.

             The film, set on the eve of the new millennium, was gloriously shot
     in black-and-white by Philippe Guilbert. Credit must be given to
     writer-director Benoît Mariage not only for the bizarre premise but also
     for the odd plot twists that avoid the obvious. Screen newcomers Simeon
     (an angelic blonde) and Devigne (who captures the dilemmas of a teen
     with expertise) offer fine performances as do Grand'Henry as the
     slow-witted neighbor and Dominique Baeyens as the patient mother.
     
             The film, though, rests squarely on the shoulders of Poelvoorde,
     who offers a magnificent portrait of a complex man. In the wrong hands,
     Roger could have come across as a monster, but the actor manages
     to evince his humanity. It is a deft accomplishment that raises Mariage's
     modest satire on the cult of celebrity and those who crave it to a
     higher realm.



                                     Rating:                B+
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.