I’ve been aware of a website called MUBI for some time, from which you can stream some great films for a reasonable cost and so this week I decided to try it out for myself.
For £2.99 I bought myself a screening of the 2009 French animation ‘Lascars’ (or by it’s rather corny English name, ‘Round Da Way’). Though this post is not intended to be an advertisement for MUBI, I did think it worked pretty well. Plus I had the option to sign up for unlimited films for a month for £9.99 but I decided to try it out before committing!
Anyway, Lascars is an animated film based on the French TV series Les Lascars. It was hugely popular in France, but didn’t really make it to the UK, which is kind of surprising considering it had a massive budget of 10 million Euros.
The film tells of two very low-level gangsters, José and Tony, living in the banlieues of Paris, who dream of earning enough cash so that they can go on holiday… hence film’s full title ‘Lascars: Pas De Vacances Pour Les Vrais Gars!’ For us English folks that’s ‘Rascals: No Vacations for Real Guys’ or, according to the film’s translators ‘No Vay-Kay For Real Homies’ [see further down for reference to poor subtitling/translations]
The film starts as Tony has just found out that he has been scammed into buying tickets to the wrong holiday destination (not Santo Rico as they hoped) and when he returns to the dodgy tourist agency he bought them from he ends up accidentally smashing the shopkeeper’s grandfathers’ ashes all over the place, and he and José get chased out of there.
This is the first of a thousand mishaps for the unlucky duo, who get into increasing amounts of trouble as the film progresses. José is offered a job working at the fancy house of a rich (and beautiful) friend named Clémence, whilst Tony gets himself into some deep doo-doo by agreeing to sell 5 kilos of weed for the vicious local drug-lord Zoran.
As José tries to spend his time productively, his efforts are frustrated by a kid named Momo who has been brought in by Clémence’s father to help him build a new sauna in the basement.
But things are much worse for Tony, who has to try and sell a very large amount of weed in only a week, or risk getting brutally maimed/killed by Zoran. He is also having trouble with a psycho girlfriend who moves into his flat and starts becoming more and more clingy and unhinged in a very short timeframe.
Essentially, this film contains a lot of slapstick comedy as our two anti-heroes go about their chaotic daily business. The plot is funny, the characters distinct, and though the subtitling leaves a lot to be desired (with far too many uses of ‘homies’, ‘da’ and ‘vay-kay’ translated from the French slang) the film’s animation and soundtrack make it stand out as an original and entertaining piece of cinema.
Just to expand on that last part: firstly the animation is really cool, with computer animated ‘3D’-style scenery combined with flat ‘old-school’ animation of the characters. It’s kind of gorrillaz-esque, and I think it works really well. Secondly, the soundtrack is made up of a lot of cool French (with a bit of American) hip-hop and rap, from Arsenick, Lord Kossity & Papalu to De La Soul.
My one criticism is that there is a sense that this film is just a series of cartoon sequences pasted together… whether this is because I paused it in the middle I am not sure, but there was a part of me that felt it was perhaps a little drawn out, and longer than it should have been.
Nevertheless I was, in all, impressed with the film. If you would like to check it out you can rent it from MUBI’s website for a modest enough sum. Or, if you understand French, you can watch the film in several parts without subtitles below. Hell, even if you’re unable to understand the French you should watch the intro because it’s awesome.