Review: Tour de France (2016)

Tour de France (2016)

Directed by: Rachid Djaidani | 95 minutes | drama | Actors: Gérard Depardieu, Sadek, Louise Grinberg, Nicolas Marétheu, Mabô Kouyaté, Raounaki Chaudron, Alain Pronnier, Kheira Bouabdelli, Prescillia Andreani, Florida Cheikh, Christine Hevers, Corinne Hamida, Lionel Richard, Kounda, Kamel Zouaoui, Red Fara Jegounda , Farida Djaïdani, Anne-Dominique Toussaint, Sabrina Hamida, Stéphane Soo Mongo, Yasiin Bey

Since the attacks in Paris and Nice, and the resulting increasing xenophobia, the French have needed more than ever a sense of unity and fraternization. One way to express this is through the silver screen. Writer, actor, comedian and director Rachid Djaïdani – who with ‘Rengaine’ (2012) already showed that he would like to be known as a bridge builder between people of different cultures – seized the opportunity to make a film about a road trip in which a rapper with an Arab background and a short-sighted middle-aged Frenchman grow closer. That sounds predictable and trite, and so is ‘Tour de France’ (2016). But if you don’t want to miss the opportunity to hear Gérard Depardieu rapping freestyle, you should definitely watch this film.

Rapper Far’Hook (Sadek) is a big promise in the French hip-hop scene. While preparing for a major talent show in Marseille, he clashes with one of his rivals. His producer Bilal (Nicolas Marétheu) does not want to let things get out of hand any further and sends his protégé on the road with his father Serge (Gérard Depardieu), who needs a driver. Serge is in fact a painter and he has the ambition to imitate the work of his eighteenth-century example Vernet, which means that he wants to go down the French coast with paint, brushes, easel and canvas to paint characteristic ports. As expected, the two traveling companions are not immediately each other’s best friend. Serge doesn’t like Muslims much – partly because his son, whose real name is Mathias, has converted to Islam, which further distanced father and son from each other – and he’s already turning his nose up at hip-hop. But once the ice is broken, they turn out to have more in common than they thought.

A white grunt with racist tendencies, where have we seen that before? We also saw a similar theme in ‘Gran Torino’ (2008), in which an icon from the silver screen (Clint Eastwood) also dared to portray the unsympathetic anti-hero. But that film had much sharper edges. ‘Tour de France’ is indeed started by a shooting, but that is about the most intense thing we are presented with. Far’Hook is supposedly a tough, angry rapper, but generally speaking, he’s quite a sweet boy, with whom even the grumpiest and bitter baby boomer can bear in an old truck. It doesn’t take long for Serge and he to have deep conversations that immediately show that they have common ground. Director and writer Djaïdani opens a can of clichés – that’s how Far’Hook becomes, of course you could almost say, a victim of ethnic profiling – and puts it all very thick to make his point. The lack of subtlety and nuance ultimately breaks the film.
Depardieu and Sadek have a nice click together and make the most of it, which makes ‘Tour de France’ look pretty good. But with more sophistication and refinement, Djaïdani could certainly have made more of it.

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