Neil Young’s Film Lounge – On The Run

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

ON THE RUN

6/10

Cavale aka The Trilogy : One (La Trilogie Cavale)
Belgium (Bel/Fr) 2002 (shown 2003) : Lucas BELVAUX : 111 mins

Left-wing guerilla Bruno LeRoux (writer-director Belvaux) busts out of jail and promptly heads to Grenoble, where his former colleagues in the Popular Army have settled down to lives of uneventful domesticity. Jeanne (Catherine Frot) finds her class-consciousness reawakaned and attempts to help, but balks at putting her family in peril. As he plots his revenge on his enemies individuals and organisations Bruno finds time to help out Agnes (Dominique Blanc), a cops drug-addict wife enduring the agonies of cold turkey. But the net is closing in

The first of Belvauxs wildly ambitious Trilogy, On the Run is fitfully absorbing on its own but really only makes sense alongside its companion pieces An Amazing Couple (a light farce) and After Life (a dark drama), which unfold in roughly the same time-frame, in the same places, featuring overlapping main characters. Belvaux deserves credit for attempting something so wildly original and ambitious, even if the whole thing doesn’t quite come off the individual episodes are all somewhat lacking, and Belvaux unsurprisingly isn’t equally at home in each of the three genres he deploys.

On the Run is perhaps the weakest of the three, its unsophisticated approach to political themes typified by Brunos surname the red (unless, of course, were supposed to infer that this is a name adopted by Bruno himself). For a more consistent and penetrating presentation of revolutionaries-turned-terrorists, Christian Petzolds brilliantly-constructed The State I Am In is well worth seeking out. On the Run is relatively sloppy in comparison: after a pulsatingly directed and edited opening getaway sequence, the pace often ebbs, and the film doesn’t really cut it as the tense thriller were led to expect.

Brunos escapades often have more of the air of absurdist comedy, especially the overextended climax in the Alps and its end-note of Beckettian nihilism. But this does give a quirkily beguiling edge to overfamiliar subject-matter, and Bruno is an intriguingly unsympathetic and brutal central character. Reportedly stepping in at the last minute to replace an actor, Belvaux turns in a strong, believable performance as the idealistic Bruno while the ever-reliable Frot provides excellent counterpoint as the conflicted, vulnerable Jeanne.

9th February, 2004
(seen 8th February : Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

by Neil Young