COLCOA 2017: Everyone’s Life, by David Bax
The COLCOA (City of Lights, City of Angels) French Film Festival is a week of French film premieres in Hollywood.
Everyone’s Life, the latest from veteran French filmmaker Claude Lelouch, is a loose and sunny ensemble comedy with a bitter sense of humor. Call it optimistically cynical (or cynically optimistic) but for every bawdy joke tossed off by a doctor who makes his rounds on a hover board, there’s a scene like the violent, decidedly non-politically correct and, eventually, surreal public argument between a cheating woman and her Arabic boyfriend. Lelouch seems to be saying, “Well, pretty much everyone is cruel, selfish and corrupt but they have some good qualities too and we’ll probably figure it out in the end so don’t worry too much.”
Everyone’s Life takes place in the town of Beaune, in Burgundy. With the exception of an extended epilogue, all the events unfold over the duration of the town’s annual jazz festival. Largely episodic, the film jumps around among stories that touch the lives of various townsfolk and visitors. It’s a familiar formula but the festival setting lends it all a pleasant musicality, even to the point of one honest-to-God musical number, thought a quiet and lovely one at that.
Though the film speeds by in its brisk editing and the framing is generally accomplished, Everyone’s Life’s least attractive quality is its color palette. To be blunt, it looks like every other middlebrow, bourgeois French dramedy; summery and slightly washed out like a pharmaceutical commercial from the late 1990s.
Among the sprawling cast of notable French actors are Jean Dujardin, Christopher Lambert, Vincent Pérez and rock star Johnny Hallyday in a dual role as both himself and a professional Johnny Hallyday impersonator.
So much of the comedy in Everyone’s Life comes from people behaving badly—cheating, bribing, alcoholism, etc.—that it’s a pleasant surprise when Lelouch draws on those same faults and excesses for the truly moving bits of pathos. A healthy percentage of the characters are involved in the legal and judicial system. From cops to judges to, eventually, defendants, there’s an ongoing conversation at play here about justice and conviction (in multiple senses of the word). Given what we’ve seen of Lelouch’s worldview, we expect that we’re just going to see these ideals degraded and mocked. And, of course, we do. But, in the end, it’s in our institutions that Everyone’s Life finds the most powerful grace.