Cannes Film Festival 2023: “The Other Laurens”, a tasty Belgian road movie that explores the codes of neo-polar

Imagine a modern western, shot between Perpignan, the Spanish border and the Dordogne, add a gallery of whimsical and touching characters, caustic replies, all orchestrated by the Belgian filmmaker Claude Schmitz and you are immersed in the head of The Other Laurens. A whirlwind of ideas that plays with the codes of neo-polar presented at the Fortnight of Filmmakers.

We meet a private detective, half-angel, half-demon bikers, corrupt cops, drug traffickers, a manipulative widow and a lovely baby doll. Caricatural characters straight out of an American B-movie that the story takes to the territories of European auteur cinema. “I wanted to do something with this fruitful schizophrenia”, declares the filmmaker to tell the genesis of his story before adding: “I wanted to put irony and certainly not cynicism, I tried to invest the codes of genre film”

Laurens’ ghosts

In the skin of the private detective, Gabriel Laurens embodied by the magnificent and too rare Olivier Rabourdin. A sort of antihero with an immediately endearing chiselled face. In his paunchy fifties, with disheveled hair, a jaded face, Gabriel is more concerned about the death of his mother than about yet another flagrant act of adultery.

This was without counting the unexpected return of his niece, Jade. A blonde bombshell with a sulky pout like Brigitte Bardot brilliantly portrayed by the very young Louise Leroy. She tumbles into his life without warning and comes to ask him to investigate the death of his father, Gabriel’s twin brother. Twins that everything opposes. François (the deceased) has moved to a castle in the south of France (a house where kitsch reigns supreme called “The White House”) while Gabriel struggles with his debts in Belgium.

So when Jade arrives, Gabriel’s routine is suddenly upset by the evil specter of François. Because ghosts, pretenses and apparitions are discussed throughout the film. A theme dear to the director whose theatrical work is nourished by a fascination for the plays of William Shakespeare, more particularly Hamlet.

Above ground characters, delightful replicas

Next to Jade and Gabriel who offer powerful verbal contests, The Other Laurens is also savored thanks to a delicious cast. There’s a gang of bikers who roam on their cars in the desert, fake bad guys whose sinister faces are metamorphosed into the faces of angels. Charged with protecting Jade, we overhear one of them telling a story to the young girl. A kind of fairy tale with a dreadful outcome narrated in a soft voice.

The cop duo played by Rodolphe Burger and Francis Soetens is also delicious. A sort of Occitan Dupont/Dupond, their replies made the audience burst into laughter, reminding some of the verve of a certain Michel Audiard. “A corpse, sometimes it hides out of shyness but it always ends up reappearing”.

Francis Soetens and Rodolphe Burger in "The Other Laurens" (Wrong Men / Horse Two Three)

Multiple entry points

On the edge of genre film, Claude Schmitz ventures into a somewhat more complex dramaturgy than in his previous films. “I wanted to make a film about the betrayal of fathers in the broad sense of the term”, he explains.

With this third opus, the director has fun blurring the tracks (even if it means mischievously losing the viewer) while exploring the themes of today’s society. It is about patriarchy, the status of women, otherness, reconstruction and identity. “There is obviously a criticism in the film, but there is also a lot of melancholy, for me, it tells the end of a world with old men who reproduce archetypes and in the middle of that, there is the character of Jade, which is a bit like me”, he confides.

Louise Leroy in "The Other Laurens" by Claude Schmitz (Wrong Men / Cheval Deux Trois)

The sheet

Gender : Fiction
Script : Claude Schmitz and Kostia Testut

Country : Belgium and France
Duration : 1h57
Exit : shortly
Distributer : ArizonaCast

Synopsis : At the request of his niece, a detective rather specialized in adultery finds himself investigating the troubled death of his twin brother, with whom he had cut ties. He joins the bling-bling home of the deceased gambler, not far from the Franco-Spanish border, around which gravitates an underworld fauna: American widow returned from everything, former marine helicopter pilot, old Hells Angels with a southern accent, dirty cops looking for a Gypsy gone.

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