Directed by: Hany Tamba | 98 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Patrick Chesnais, Pierrette Katrib, Gabriel Yammine, Julia Kassar, Lara Matar, Pierre Chamassian, Maggie Badawi, Majdi Machmouchi, Fady Reaidy, Mounir Khawli, Selina Choueiry, Romeo El Hachem, Rudy Khalil, Mahmoud Mabsout, Hamzi Nasrallah, Karine Lazard , Fabrice Scott, Nancy Tate, Laurence Colussi, Denis Maréchal, Béatrice Laout
In the list of Julien Clerc, Michel Sardou, Gérard Lenorman and Joe Dassin, the name Bruno Caprice would not be out of place. Caprice is the main character in ‘Une chanson dans la tête’ (2008), the debut film by Lebanese director Hany Tamba. Unlike Clerc and co, Caprice is a mayfly. In the mid-1970s he had a modest hit, ‘Quand tu t’en vas’, after which he fell into obscurity. Thirty years later, the down-and-out charm singer played by Patrick Chesnais is working as a receptionist in a hotel in Paris. His love life is in shambles and he is addicted to painkillers. In short, Bruno is a lonely wreck. His life is turned upside down when he is invited by Jamil Harfouche (Pierre Chamassian), a wealthy Lebanese businessman who has built an empire selling Turkish coffee. His spoiled wife Randa (Julia Kassar) is almost celebrating her birthday and he wants to surprise her with a performance by the singer.
For Randa, Bruno’s soggy love song has a special resonance. In the 1970s, she was at a performance of the singer in Beirut when an attack was committed on her home. If she hadn’t been listening to Bruno, she would have been dead now. The song also carries an emotional meaning for her young pedicure Nadine (Pierrette Katrib). When she was a tiny girl, she got the news that her father had died. Bruno Caprice sounded in the background. Nadine has still not been able to cope with the loss of her father, as evidenced by the way she avoids relationships with men. She never wants to hear the song again. But with Bruno in the country, she can hardly ignore it. Although the French singer does not feel like performing again with that annoying song, he gives in to the money. Whether it will come to a performance is the question. Randa is kidnapped in broad daylight with Mercedes and all …
‘Une chanson dans la tête’ is known as a comedy, but it also has serious sides. Bruno who is close to despair, Randa who is on the brink of a nervous breakdown, Nadine who has never properly coped with her grief. Nevertheless, Tamba lets laughter prevail, especially in the person of César (Gabriel Yammine), Harfouche’s personal assistant who is so caricatured that at times a smile appears on your face. Only at the end does the director reveal everyday reality: there is real war in the Middle East in his world too. Unfortunately, Tamba really pulls out every cliché he could find. There are few surprises to be found in the appearance of the various characters alone. A wealthy businessman is – of course – short, fat and bald, with mustache and gold chains. And his wife is, of course, a dressy, bored and cranky serpent. The story also does not escape the excess of clichés and predictability reigns supreme. Where Tamba starts off originally with his colorful and funny opening credits, unfortunately he soon lets go of that idiosyncrasy.
Tamba was inspired by Pedro Almodóvar, which is clearly visible in his colorful film full of kitsch and the colorful company of characters. But where the renowned Spanish filmmaker uses his sometimes bizarre but often nuanced stories to drag you as a viewer into the lives of the characters, this is not the case with debutant Tamba. Moreover, he lacks (for the time being) the visual ingenuity to actually captivate his viewers. Tamba’s imagery is mainly functional, nothing more. Much more could have been done with the music too. This film just doesn’t have it all. Although the idea of a forgotten musician who can shine on stage one more time is not bad at all and Lebanon is a surprising and warm location for a film, ‘Une chanson dans la tête’ is quite disappointing.