Congorama
© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Director Philippe Falardeau attempts to dramatize the saying "blood will out" in his
latest comic drama
CONGORAMA. The story of a fateful encounter between two
men who may or may not share commonalities, the film is intriguing if not quite
completely successful.

Olivier Gourmet stars as fortysomthing Belgian inventor Michel Roy. The son of a
well-known writer (Jean-Pierre Cassel who does yeoman work in a mute role),
Michel is facing a host of crises: his job as an inventor is on the line if he doesn't get
someone to buy one of his creations, his marriage to the Congolese-born Alice
(Claudia Tagbo) is strained and his father drops a bombshell. Michel was adopted;
instead of being born in Belgium as he always believed, he came into this world in a
barn in Quebec, Canada. Determined to find out what he can, he uses a business
trip to Canada as an excuse to dig into his family background.

Michel, though, seems to be one of the most unluckiest people alive. At customs, his
prototype needed for his business presentation is seized. He makes do by creating
a model out of styrofoam cups that fall apart during his speech. And when he finally
meets the nun who arranged his adoption, she is unable to give him much
information except that his father's name may have been "Legrand." Arriving at the
village where he was born, he discovers that no one there has that surname, although
there are plenty of people named "Legros." Through the local priest (Gabriel Arcand)
who has leant a sympathetic ear, Michel meets Louis Legros (Paul Ahmarani) who
reluctantly agrees to give him a ride to the nearest city. On the way, there is a car
crash.

At this point in the film, Falardeau rewinds and turns the focus on Louis, the son of a
local inventor (who was working on an electric car). The audience is clued into some
of the background and there are attempts to draw parallels between the hapless
Louis and the inept Michel. For instance, they both share unusual birthplaces: Louis
was born in 1967 at the Montreal Exposition. It appears that the filmmaker may be
hinting that there may not be such a thing as coincidence after all.

The third act transpires after the fateful accident, when Michel has arrived back in
Belgium and is being hailed for developing a new battery that will enhance the
production of electric cars. When Louis learns of this, he makes a trip to Belgium to
confront Michel over some missing plans that belongs to the senior Legros -- and
that also leads to a series of plot twists that I won't divulge.

The film proved somewhat enjoyable thanks to the effortless performances of
Gorumet and Ahmarani. The film's structure, which in recent years has become
somewhat tired after its heyday in the wake of
PULP FICTION, is the key ingredient
here. Depending on how you react to it, you will either become caught up in the tale
and go with it, or if you are resistant, you will find yourself frustrated and itching for the
movie to be over with. I allowed myself to go with its flow and while some of the
coincidences strain credulity -- there's a certain symmetry to them that was also
comforting. If the director is on par with the Creator, Falardeau has crafted a
pleasant little film.


              
Rating:                B
Gourmet as Michel Roy
and Paul Ahmarani as
Louis Legros in
CONGORAMA.

Directed by
Philippe Falardeau,
Canada/Belgium/France,
2006; 106m

Photo Credit: Louise
Archambault