REVIEW: "Felix": The Incredibly True "Adventures" of Two Boys in Love
by Brandon Judell
(indieWIRE/ 06.13.01) — “Just think: your family are the people most likely to give you the flu,” humorist Jane Wagner has noted. That might be true for heterosexuals, but for most grown-up gays and lesbians, at least until recently, if they could even get a flu germ from their ma and pa, they’d celebrate.
To be homosexual for many queer folk in the past century meant moving to a big city away from your family so you could copulate and love in peace. And if your parents lived in a big city, then you moved to another big city. I was lucky. I was Jewish so my parents moved to Florida. I saved on the moving costs. So you ask, “Well, what do you then do on the holidays like Christmas? Or Chanukah? Or Labor Day?” Easy. You celebrate with your friends. Your neighbors. Your fellow workers.
Now what is this all leading up to? “Adventures of Felix,” the delightful new road comedy by the equally delightful directors/lovers Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau. I telephoned these two Parisians about a month ago because I had nothing else to do while I was wearing a mudpack. I also learned they own a motorcycle.
By the way, this is not the couple’s first celluloid endeavor. They also wrote and directed “Jeanne and the Perfect Guy,” my favorite musical about a girl who falls in love with a hunk who has AIDS. It was sort of like “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” meets ACT UP. You leave the theater laughing, crying and singing but with your conscience raised.
Although there are some lovely songs in “Adventures of Felix,” plus a little dancing, too, it is not a musical. It’s a wry tale of Felix (the excellent Sami Bouajila) an unemployed gay man who lives in Normandy with his schoolteacher beau Daniel (Pierre-Loup Rajot). One day, while cleaning up his dead mom’s apartment, Felix comes across letters from the father he never knew. The return address on the aged envelopes lists an abode in Marseilles. What if the old codger is still alive?
Felix does some checking and discovers his dad is indeed alive. Immediately, he decides to hitch to Marseilles, say hi to his pop, and then meet up with Daniel. It’ll be a 5-day adventure ending in a lovers’ vacation. What could be better?
Now there are a few things you should know about the hero here. He is HIV positive, part Arab, and likes to disco. Not everyone’s favorite traits, especially if you’re a Fascist Frenchman, of which there are many, or if you’re Charlton Heston, of which thankfully there’s only one.
Well, after the set-up, Felix goes to his AIDS clinic (a truly mirthful sequence where the clientele compares its varied cocktails of pills), kisses Daniel good-bye, buys a kite in the Gay Pride colors, and starts hitching. From this point on, the film is divided into segments titled “My Little Brother,” “My Grandmother,” “My Sister,” “My Cousin” and “My Father.” In each, Felix meets a stranger who takes on a role of a family member for him. He does however fuck with the guy in the “My Cousin” episode. I’m not sure if this is very proper behavior for cousins even though they use a condom. But then again I come from a family where you wouldn’t exactly want to screw anyone even if you weren’t related to them. In fact when I masturbate, to get excited, I wear a Jude Law mask. Maybe in Gwyneth Paltrow‘s family all the cousins fuck each other. I’ll ask her the next time I run into her.
The best moments in this lively little film occur with the stand-in grandmama, Mathilde (Patachou). This lonely yet lively widow throws around her strong common sense as if it were granite. When she discovers Felix’s goal, she asks, “At your age, what do you need a father for?” Then after she gets him to spend a night in her house, she peeks at his nude form with glee. I’m not sure if this is suitable or even common among grandmas, but what the hell? A little voyeurism might be healthier than a few bottles of Geritol.
Eventually, though, Felix arrives in Marseilles, and the ending is a bit of a whimsical surprise, which I’ll leave as a surprise. But what’s even more surprising is how few films deal with modern gay identity in such a nonjudgmental, tender, unjaundiced manner. Of course, this film also is concerned with bigotry, xenophobia, AIDS and even has a murder in it, which seems a little forced. But the great thing about “Adventures of Felix” is how it’s mainly about being gay and loving life and loving yourself as you realize you can love life — and it does it all with a chuckle. And who doesn’t need a chuckle?