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Les clefs de bagnole
cast: Laurent Baffie, and Daniel Russo

writer and director: Laurent Baffie

94 minutes (18) 2003 widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Andrew Hook
There are several running gags that populate this frequently amusing movie, not least of which is the recurrence of the number 23. According to scientific research anyone who drives for 60 years spends 23 days of their life searching for their car keys. And, in no uncertain terms, this is exactly what the movie is about.

Yet this is more to this film than popular French television comedian Laurent Baffie (who also writes and directs), searching for his car keys with fellow actor, Daniel Russo, because - as Baffie says in his opening pitch to a variety of French film producers - it's not the object that matters, but the quest. A quest that's rejected at the start of the movie by almost the entire French film industry as actor after actor (from Jean-Claude Brialy to Eric Cantona) turn down the opportunity to play the lead role.

From this inauspicious start, and totally aware that they are acting in a movie, Baffie and Russo embark on a ridiculous series of set pieces lampooning moviemaking and behind-the-scenes-type documentaries, culminating in Baffie scaling a mountain to consult with a hermit whose wisdom is that: "Sometimes we search very far for something very close." Or in other words, his keys are in a different trouser pocket to the one where he usually keeps them.

Daft? Yes it is. Funny? At least half the time... Stupid? Very rarely... And whilst the humour is hardly at the biting edge of satire, there is enough intelligence underneath these gags and self-knowing references to suggest that whilst Baffie is not a potential Woody Allen protégé, for example, he's thankfully not writing Police Academy material either.

Some of the film references are obvious, whilst others will no doubt emerge on geeky websites in years to come. There are frequent, deliberate, stops in the action. Amusing uses of flashback, time-lapses, continuity gags, and other filmmaking tricks add to the mix. Sometimes it reminds you of Annie Hall in the occasional use of animation, vox pop interviews and humorous asides. Although unlike that movie there is also a talking Claymation dog, zoology, and the most impressive bathroom I've ever seen!

Ultimately, there is enough in this movie to waste 94 minutes of your life without regretting that you wasted 94 minutes of your life. But rent it rather than buy it.

DVD extras include the original trailer, plus other Tartan DVD trailers.

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