For summer vacation, Marc (Melki) and Béatrix (Tedeschi) take their two kids to the seaside house of Marc's youth, where their daughter takes up with a biker and their sons roams the beach with his best friend, who is in love with him. Things get steamier when Béatrix's lover Mathieu shows up, and Marc's old flame appears.
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A family comprising of a father, mother, daughter and son head to the south of France for summer vacation. Charly's friend, Martin joins them. He is gay and has a crush on Charly. Charly's mother, Beatrix, thinks Charly is gay and having an affair with Martin. Charly's father is somewhat bothered by this and by the open sexuality in the family. Written by
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Say hello to the film that depicts a homosexual relationship between a young man and a plumber, and then ends with a piece-to-camera song and dance routine.
I don't think it's a coincidence that this 2006 French comedy was released as both "Côte d'Azur" and as "Cockles and Muscles" in respective territories and at respective times. Fact being, it is a bit rubbish. In 2001, there was an Argentinian film released entitled "The Swamp"; a film set in a humid, although wetter on account of straddling a jungle, locale at a large property on a stretch of land somewhere Argentina where the sun shone but there was a muggy feel to things. The Swamp wasn't perfect, but it looks like the shining beacon upon which films of this ilk should be based compared to Cockles and Muscles; a film dealing with, you'd have to say, some rather adult issues and decent basis' upon for a film to exist but done so in a carefree, flash-in-the-pan fashion that often strikes us as just childish where there might be potential.
Like co directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau's effort here, The Swamp saw a truck of disparate characters, of whom were mostly related but had some friends with them, thrust together under the beating sun with nary another soul for quite some distance around them struggling with repressed sexual urges and the attractions they felt towards some of those present. The idea is that the heat and emotions combine to make for a stifling, pent up film studying people (in The Swamp's case, wearing very little on account of access to a nearby pool) smirking and gesturing to others they quite fancy although are too capricious to act on it.
There we go - I said it, and in a nutshell, you have exactly how it is the film feels is a sensible, constructive way about which to go exploring people of an array of ages; sexual orientations and across both genders go about dealing and reacting to such a thing. Cockles and Muscles is set over a summer holiday in the South East of France, and depicts a large (too large) group of people mostly of the same family talking and acting on their frank attitudes towards such a subject. It's throw away and mostly inconsequential, often dull and a bit annoying but I think it's made with the best of intentions as the screenwriter tries to throw together all of this material and content and make it work, but where its heart's in the right place, it's brain is away on a summer holiday of its own. Infidelity, homosexuality, marriage, virginity the potential for one night stands are on the menu in Ducastel and Martineau's feature, a film getting most things wrong although not without establishing some potential before taking apparent glee in wrecking everything again.
It is the character of Marc (Melki) who owns the old house on the French coast, a man who has headed there with his wife and sons for this holiday. Béatrix (Tedeschi) is his wife, and is having a relationship with a local man, although there is no conviction whatsoever behind this affair and not for one second do we believe she would be with this kind of person. Béatrix is a non-entity of a character; a flat, bland and seemingly unintelligent woman we have little interest in and long to be off camera, whereas there is no reason for her to be anywhere near Mathieu (Bonnaffé), who's ugly and unattractive anyway and is the man with whom she shares her love outside of matrimony. The son, Charly (Torres), is single and straight but is taken under the wing somewhat of a homosexual individual staying with them called Martin (Collin). Breaking away from potentially interesting content depicting Charly and what he really wants and who he really is, is the story of how Martin strikes up a relationship with a local plumber named Didier (Barr). Their scenes are much more interesting that the languid ones involving Béatrix and the more complicated dynamic between her; her lover and her husband.
The film is, as a whole, just kind of dull; a criminal thing when one is dealing with so many differing characters at so many different stages of their lives with the potential for so much. The co-directors, who also wrote the project, bite off too much to absorb and often undercut the potentially interesting stuff to give everyone a fair crack: the wholly unlikeable eventual leads, in the adults, given perky and unnecessarily screen time killing off our interest and patience. Plot and such is non-existent, whereas no one necessarily transcends through any sort of change. As a coming of age piece, the film is flat and without vigour; as something trying to depict infidelities, it is without drama, tension and any kind of maturity in regards to the moral implications. As one of those pieces depicting a person, or group of people, heading away to an alien place and feeling like it genuinely changed them come the time to return home again, it fails miserably. Israeli film Eyes Wide Open; something like Chabrol's La femme infidèle and perhaps even Polanski's Bitter Moon are all films having a good crack at most of what's depicted herein, each of them as exciting, somewhat bold and involving as each other. Less can be said for Cockels and Muscles wherein there is not, in fact, very much to get excited about - a sorry film whose potential is constantly undermined and whose presence we tire of very quickly.
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