Sunday, May 28th, 2023

A French pansexual sex comedy lighter than a soufflé

crustacesCôte d’Azur

(Crustacés et Coquillages)

Written and Directed by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau

Released February 12, 2005 at the Berlin Film Festival
Comedy (foreign)
96 min.


Review by Stephen O. Murray

June 16, 2006.

The French title for the 2005 movie directed by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (The Adventures of Felix, My Life on Ice, Children of ’68) that is released in English as Côte d’Azur is Crustacés et Coquillages.

This indexes a running joke about consuming shellfish (particularly oysters known as “violettes” though they are yellowish) pumping up libido. The pouty, long-haired teenager Charly [Romain Torres] thinks his parents are overdosing on the shellfish.

They and his visiting friend Martin [Edouard Collins] think that Mathieu spends too much time in the shower (he masturbates there a lot), using up all the hot water in the spacious house on the Côte d’azur (on the Mediterranean, near Nice) that his father, a Paris auto-mechanic named Marc [Gilbert Melki] has inherited. As in classical French sex farces, everyone makes false assumptions about everyone else and fails to suspect what is really going on (which, as in classical French farces, is a good deal of carrying-on).

The teenagers are undergoing teenage angst and exploration. Marc is not comfortable discussing sex/uality, but makes an awkward expression of concern about practicing safe sex. His (originally Dutch) wife Béatrix [Valeria Bruni Tedeschi] is more comfortable with her children having becoming sexual beings than Marc is, but her sophistication does not keep her from making her own share of false interpretations/assumptions. Still, she has the best line in the movie: “Teenagers are so conventional.” At least they are even more shocked that their parents are sexual beings than Marc is that his children are having sex.

crustaces1I think that saying almost anything about the plot or saying much about the characters risks spoiling the fun. Although dealing with family and adolescent sexuality as the other Ducastel/Martineau do, this one is more lightweight. It is a “crowd-pleaser” for audiences amused by sexcapades of attractive people spending the summer at the beach (with none of Ozon’s portentousness) With the exception of Mathieu [Jacques Bonnaffé], the cast is attractive. By the end, Charly seems less of a brat than he did initially, and there is a fairy tale (Bollywood?) finale.

There’s nothing of particular note to analyze thematically or cinematically. (It seems an altogether lesser-work than The Adventures of Felix, though sharing the open generosity of Felix from that film. The anguishes of the characters are played for laughs, which seems all right in that these are eventually relieved. Those (for instance, the people currently running the U.S. government) who believe that pre-marital or extra-marital sex should be punished by disease, and (preferably) death, will be unamused. Those who find the anarchy of sexual impulses funny—and not necessarily lethal—can enjoy the remaking of the family.

Although there is some simulated sex (most of it autoerotic), it is shot above the waist (so that it may be simulated nudity as well as simulated sex) and the male-male sex is all precoital or postcoital (whereas there are two male-female scenes of simulated coitus). There is a lot of talk about sexuality (Charly’s in particular) but nothing graphic that I recall (and I’d recall!).

The DVD includes a trailer for the movie plus trailers for four other Strand releases.

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I am not sure I’d consider this a “gay movie” (though my own definition of a “gay movie” is a movie that sleeps with other movies, which this certainly does—including the writer-director couple’s previous films, especially their musical Janette and the Perfect Guy, films of Eric Rohmer, and Come Undone. It is very, very French.

originally published on epinions, 16 June 2006
©2006, 2016, Stephen O. Murray

About The Author

Stephen O. Murray grew up in rural southern Minnesota, earned a B.A. from James Madison College (within Michigan State University), an M.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (both in sociology), and was a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley (in anthropology). He is the author of American Gay, Homosexualities, etc. and lives in San Francisco.