Pros: Koutchoumov, Rudnicki, travelogue
Cons: requires considerable suspension of disbelief
I have no idea why the English title of the 2006 Swiss movie, written, directed by and starring Lionel Baier (1976-, “Garçon stupide”) “Comme des voleurs (à l'est)” is “Stealth.” Marketed as a “gay movie” (whatever that is!), I’d say it ia a road movie. It’s not a coming-of-age movie, at least for the man-child protagonist who is named Lionel Baier, an exceedingly narcissistic and delusional (Francophone/Lausanne) Swiss radio cultural reporter and commentator besotted with L'Or,* the 1925 historical novel about the Swiss (though born in Baden) entrepreneur John Sutter (of Sutter’s Mill, where gold was discovered in California) by the Swiss-born ex-surrealist Blaise Cendras (1887-1961).
The character’s California dreaming is diverted northeast to Poland when Lionel discovers that the family name is Polish, and that his father’s father’s father deserted his Swiss wife and children during the early 1930s. So he’s one-eighth Polish his father (who is one-fourth Polish and has no interest in that ancestry) says, but Lionel is bored with Swiss complacency, starts learning Polish, and sort of adopts a Polish woman, Ewa (Alicja Bachleda) who is an au pair for three unruly Swiss children when he first meets her and then loses her job to a Slovenian woman who will do the work for less money.
Lionel invites her to stay with him, de-gaying the apartment and giving Ewa the bedroom he and Serge (Stéphane Rentznik) have been sharing. Serge is somewhat amused at Lionel’s failed attempts to have sex with Lionel, but when Lionel decides to marry Ewa so she won’t be deported…
Lionel’s sister, Lucie (Natacha Koutchoumov) who works with immigrants and has fewer illusions about their invariable nobility than Lionel does, is vehement in her criticism of a marriage to manage immigration. I presume that the Italian with whom she is living, Liberto (Bernabé Rico, who supplies the gratuitous full-frontal male nudity that signals “European gay film”) is there legally, but Lucie is not very committed to him (Liberto seems more committed to her).
Lucie more or less kidnaps her brother and drives him to Poland. She gets him beaten up when she intervenes in a lover’s quarrel en route, and Lionel is cleaned up by a Polish youth who is studying film in Paris, Stanislav (Michal Rudnicki) and who takes the Swiss vagrants to his grandfather’s wooden house in the country.
After a romantic interlude (a Polish boy is more sexually compatible with Lionel than the Polish girl was…), brother and sister continue on toward Warsaw, picking up a caricature of narcissistic Swiss eco-activist (Cynthia Coray Schmassmann), who steals the car that contains their money and ID. My favorite part of the movie has Lucie using some of what she has learned in working with immigrants, selling Lionel’s clothes (down to his Calvin Klein briefs) to raise the money needed to research their great-grandfather in the national archive. Following a very unbelievable coincidence, there is an ending that I find pretty inexplicable.
Though I like him better when he dyes his hair back from bleached-blond, I find Lionel annoying in his enthusiasms and solipsism. I like (and identify with) Lucie more. Stanislav is very charming and there is a warm Polish couple (I don’t want to give everything about the plot away!). And there is the Swiss hitch-hiker who makes Lionel look good in comparison.
Enjoying the movie requires suspending disbelief in some coincidences and in the two (both of whom have jobs) disappearing (in a company car at that) and ignoring some continuity lapses. It is possible to laugh at Lionel (it’s impossible to laugh with his character, but the other Lionel Baier, the writer-director has a comic take on the part he plays) and enjoy the road-movie comedy. I ended up liking the movie, unlike “Garçon Stupide” (in which Baier and Koutchoumov also appeared; Koutchoumov plays a leading role in Baier’s 2008 “Un autre homme” (An other man) which Netflix does not have, and a role in his 2010 “Low Cost” shot on a cellphone (ditto).
I like the Ravel on the soundtrack (not “Bolero,” thank heavens!) and the travelogue footage (shot by Séverine Barde, who also shot “Garçon Stupide”).
The only bonus feature is an unsubtitled French trailer, so that I should round my 3.5 rating down, but since I ended up liking the movie more than I did “Garçon stupide” (and even the Lionel character in the last scene!), it doesn’t seem right to give it the same 3-star rating.
©2012, Stephen O. Murray
* I wrote about the translation as Gold: Being the Wonderous History of General John Augustus Sutter at http://voices.yahoo.com/blaise-cendrarss-gold-being-wonderous-history-7265812.html.