Review: Cloclo

(Florent-Emilio Siri, 2012)
(Originally posted in Lost in the Multiplex)

The latest feature from glitzy French director Florent-Emilio Siri, Cloclo is a sprawling, ambitious and conceited portrait of a forgotten superstar, whose erratic career as a lovable crooner whipped France into a frenzy in the 60s and 70s. While England (and indeed the world) went crazy for The Beatles, France had their luminary in Claude François, a man whose sex appeal left women in a state of passionate wonderment wherever he went. Before his premature death at the age of 39, François lead a hectic life full of profitable highs and deceitful lows, padding out an expanding career (which included his penning of the song Comme D’Habitude, later adapted as My Way by Frank Sinatra) with personal and monetary struggles, familial instability and a string of doomed love affairs, which all conjoin to form the dizzying rungs in an ultimately hollow career.

Imbued by a certain level of waxy magnitude by Jérémie Renier, François here is depicted as egotistical and bullying, a heartbreaker whose thirst for stardom comes at numerous prices. Written by Julien Rappeneau, Siri’s film has – at 150 minutes – something of an expansive amount of time to sift through its protagonist’s eventful life, a runtime justified by the fact that almost every indicative occurrence is given a moment in the spotlight. As diligent as this is, it proves to be the film’s ultimate downfall due to the way Siri unskilfully shoves everything together in the hope it will all coalesce into a seamless whole, which it very rarely does. Displaying an attention span of a disco ball, Siri’s flashy direction bounds from one event to the next in an entirely haphazard manner, with his inability to actually end (or indeed open) sequences creating variously jarring cutaways when he should be letting the scene gestate and allow the intricacies of his actors, who all deliver believable performances, to really make their mark. As François’ vanity exacerbates and quickly trickles towards cantankerous arrogance, the film leaps ahead in time, moving on to yet another show stopping performance or a spiky confrontation, their ramifications deflated by a strict compliance to Siri’s all-encompassing principles.

Much like the praised Western biopics of icons such as Ray Charles in Taylor Hackford’s Ray or Johnny Cash in James Mangold’s translucent Walk the Line, Cloclo sets its sights on painting an extensive portrait of an emblem in France’s musical legacy by structuring itself around François’ life from cradle to grave, opening with his strict childhood in Egypt and ending with his accidental death. While this is, admittedly, a thorough depiction which forms something of an enlightening tutorial on who Claude François actually was (as his celebrity rarely transcended his native France), it loses marks by refusing to choose and maintain a particular focus point. Early, potentially interesting scenes between Claude and his stern father, who remained disapproving of his son’s desire for fame until his death, are merely glimpsed at and rarely given any time to breath.

While Siri should be commended for his determination and the way he mirrors the camp, discoey attitude of his protagonist through dexterous visuals, his efforts are mired by both the film’s distractible attitudes and the way he eschews originality in favour of sculpting a biopic that rarely stands out amongst a generic crowd.


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