THE ADVENTURES OF FELIX
written and directed by Oliver Ducastel and Jacques Martineau with Sami Bouajila, Pierre Loup-Rajot, and Patachou runs July 13-19 at Egyptian
THE TITLE TELLS you all you need to know about this delightful gay picaresque relating one F鬩x's adventures as he traverses France southward from Dieppe (in Normandy) over five memorable days. It's a road movie, which always implies a voyage of self-discovery, but thankfully neither the film nor F鬩x takes matters so seriously. Our young, handsome half-Arab hero (Sami Bouajila) is an infectiously lighthearted sort; you can immediately see why everyone likes him—especially his schoolteacher boyfriend Daniel (Pierre Loup-Rajot), who plans to meet him at the end of his hitchhiking odyssey.
His mother just deceased, F鬩x hopes to establish some family ties with his father in Marseilles—after two decades of separation. But that may only be "a pretext," he's told by a straight talker identified as "My Grandmother" (veteran cabaret singer Patachou) in the second of Adventures' five chapters. Carefree F鬩x has already had an affectionate, chaste encounter with a hormone-raging youth ("My Little Brother," chapter one), but this woman has got his number. She bosses him around, tells her own life story, boards him for the night, and shares his love for a cheesy daytime soap opera, Lap of Luxury.
In this way, F鬩x assembles a makeshift family. It's an act of imagination for a cheerful guy who's clearly not a deep thinker. "I'm a man of principles," he declares, but those principles make it easier for him to amusingly, circuitously drive around a province that's elected a right-wing government than to report a late-night murder he witnesses in Rouen. "You're a little bit of a coward," his so-called grandmother rebukes him. The words sting more than she knows. F鬩x's guilt builds with his journey, the TV news reminding him of his negligence.
(Still, his conscience doesn't preclude a quickie with a handsome motorist. When the two emerge naked from the bushes, F鬩x reproaches his pal for tossing away a spent condom. "That's littering!" he protests with comic indignation—easier to condemn the other's small sin than his own greater transgression.)
Adventures keeps such moral observations to a minimum. F鬩x learns his lessons obliquely. The movie is really a series of parables, and F鬩x a sweetly obstinate student. "I'm not gloomy," he reassures Daniel when they reconvene, despite a few knocks he's taken on the road. The wonder of it, thanks enormously to Bouajila's guileless charm, is that you finally share in his sunny disposition—and this is a guy who's HIV-positive and pops handfuls of pills on the hour. What's his secret? Comedy is all about resiliency, bouncing back—and F鬩x is such an endearing comic hero because he won't let anything keep him down.