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Winstar Cinema
Official Site
Directors: Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau
Producer: Phillipe Martin
Written by: Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau
Cast: Sami Bouajila, Patachou, Ariane Ascaride, Pierre-Loup Rajot

Rating: out of 5

THE ADVENTURES OF FELIX is a fun little ride through the French countryside with wacky Felix, a gay, HIV-positive, ethnic Arab who takes advantage of being fired (before the film even begins) to head from Normandy to Marseilles in pursuit of the father he’s never seen. I should probably mention at this point that Felix looks to be in his early thirties, so finding dad based on a 20-year-old address should be no mean feat, but this movie is all about the journey, not the destination.

Felix, played by Sami Bouajila, better known stateside for his portrayal of Samir Nazhdeh in THE SIEGE (a film destined to be reinterpreted based on this week’s tragic events), comes across as eminently likeable, even when he’s making stupid decisions or being an ass, but not as someone to take seriously. And that’s where ADVENTURES OF FELIX starts to fall apart. The normalizing of gay and even HIV-positive identity is delightful, though as an American more used to BOYS DON’T CRY than FELIX, I found myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, especially in rural areas where American gays often fear for their lives. Relax. The shoe never drops, and the scene at the doctor’s office with three HIV patients humorously discussing their doses got really funny once I realized what they were talking about.

So, once those often far too serious subjects become commonplace, the stage is set to attack Felix’s Arab identity. For those unused to categorizing Frenchmen as Arab or not-Arab, these scenes do not make sense at first, so just assume that anyone with non-pale skin (or who listens to any Arabic music) is an Arab and subject to racial bigotry and physical attacks. These serve to make Felix occasionally paranoid throughout the rest of the film, especially when he obsessively avoids “conservative” towns.

All of this seems meant to give Felix more depth, as he wrestles with his conscience about reporting a crime and his fears of not being listened to because of his ethnicity, but I found “serious Felix” just didn’t work for me. When compared to the frivolous nature of most of his thoughts and behavior, the agonizing and crying bits came out of left field and didn’t fit in with the rest. Felix makes this journey on a lark and, as several characters tell him, doesn’t really care about his father. While this seems intended to celebrate acceptance of the present and creating one’s own family and world of choice, it comes across as a shallow refusal to accept consequences, past and present, and weakens the serious content.

Is THE ADVENTURES OF FELIX fun? You bet, and as a pleasant romp through backwoods France with just enough bite to avoid being cotton candy, it succeeds admirably. Will you remember anything about it a week later? Only if bigotry against Arabs in the U.S. increases markedly as a result of Tuesday’s attacks. The rest will pleasantly melt away in your mind, not in your hands.

—Reed Oliver

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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