Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Film Review: The Kid With a Bike

Not many filmmakers do the edge of tragedy better than brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.  Just when you feel yourself getting cocky enough to think you know what will happen next, these ever-so-sly Belgian brothers pull the proverbial rug out from under your cinematic expectations.  With their latest, The Kid With a Bike, it is business as usual for the brothers, which means nothing but good things for all those Dardenne admirers out there - myself included.  One of the few directors, or pair of directors as the case may be, to be honoured with Cannes' Palme d'Or twice (for Rosetta in 99 and L'Enfant in 05), this film, which incidentally was awarded the Grand Prix, Cannes' second highest honour, is nearly those film's equal - if not their actual equals.  And that ain't just me whistlin' hyperbolic Dixie either.

Brilliantly seductive, with the Dardenne's usual subtle and deceptive grace, The Kid With a Bike is the story of a boy, his bike and the woman who tries to pull him out of the violent world he begins to crumble into after being abandoned by his father.  With a pair of quite spectacular performances from Cécile de France and Thomas Doret, and with more than a mere nod to The Bicycle Thieves, this tender and quite disarming coming-of-age tale takes the genre and ferociously, but quite carefully so, turns it on its own head.  In fact this is probably the most poignant, and the most realistic (while at the same time playing as a modern day fairy tale of sorts), and the most demanding (the Dardennes' cinema is nothing if not a demanding kind of cinema) coming-of-age story since Ken Loach gave us Kes way back in 1969.  The Dardennes have taken their typically no-frills style of poetic realism (and this time, unlike their past oeuvre, with an actual soundtrack set perfectly in tune with the film itself) and once again make it sing with a much deeper resonance than one would expect from such a type of cinema.

It may sound as if I am gushing - and I suppose I am - but I don't seem to be able to stop myself.  It may not be the be all and end all of modern cinema (there are at least two films released this year that I have liked more) but it is probably better than anything the brothers have yet done, with the notable exception of the aforementioned Rosetta (the duo's one true masterpiece of endurance cinema), and better than most of what world cinema has given us in recent days.  The Kid With a Bike may not have the overbearing power of the doubly aforementioned Rosetta, but in a much smaller, more subtle way, (this film will certainly sneak up on you) it is its very own emotionally charged powder keg of a film.  Just think of how this film would be ruined in the hands of the modern day machine that is Hollywood.  Like I said earlier, the Dardenne's take us to the precipice of tragedy, and pull us back when we think it is not enough, or toss us over when we are afraid it is too much, better than just about anyone out there today - and after a minor, just minor, slip with Lorna's Silence, the brother's prove just that.  A pair of modern day Bresson's indeed.


Natalie said...

Hello Kevyn! I tagged you for a blog award. Read the rules here:

Kevyn Knox said...

Thanx for the praise. I will be writing up a post on it in the next few days.

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