David Cuevas takes a look at ‘Tralala’, as part of FilmHounds’ ongoing Cannes Film Festival coverage.

Aux cables in beer glasses and dirty clothes rummaged upon his poorly-maintained studio floor. For Tralala, his world is but a lackadaisical fantasia. A musician equipped with a guitar and his own wits, the titular homeless hero finds himself in a few too many coincidences and fateful encounters in Arnaud Larrieu & Jean-Marie Larrieu latest surrealist endeavour. A musical starring an all-star cast of indie French darlings, Tralala’s unexpected turn from alluring character study to a nonchalant and unconventional love triangle provides an inspired window into our protagonist’s world of deception and camaraderie. 

Set in the holy town of Lourdes, where nuns peruse the local bodegas and priests casually drink in bars, the Larrieu Brothers infuse candid verisimilitude and the occasional dash of surrealism to great effect. For example, the Brothers utilise the current pandemic as a rich visual metaphor. Covered masks are a reactionary symbol for shrouded identity, directly contrasting Tralala’s adaptation to the commonwealth of Lourdes and his eventual symbiosis with his “Pat” persona. Lourdes itself is also presented in a cloud of artifice, where sacred images are sold as religious paraphernalia in the form of snow-globes, mugs and even a branded banjo. Tralala’s world is a place of deceit, as Mathieu Amalric’s committed performance to the role provides pitch perfect vocals in various busking sequences. The singer from Montparnasse Station is no longer a man, but a reflection of his surroundings. A ghost of swan-sung memories and grief, adjacent to the collective remembrance of a forgotten friend. 

Still Courtesy – SBS Productions

However, what brings Tralala’s journey to a halt is the lack of enforcement of his surrounding dysphoria against the backdrop of familiar dynamics. There’s far to much ambiguity and a lack of clarity in regards to the connected relationships and supplementary roles within Tralala’s expedition of identity and self acceptance; where even Denis Lavant’s upbeat performance as Climby —an eccentric beret-wearing music competitor to Amalric’s titular protagonist— is diminished amidst the film’s plodding semantics. 

What is left of Tralala’s oddball pilgrimage is an empathetic lo-fi musical. Hosting a variety of questionable and forced musical segments dabbling in folk, pop, rap, and even disco; the loose narrative framework of the central symphonic melodrama compliments the Larrieu Brothers’ witty screenwriting. An acquired taste for those expecting a scathing critique of the music industry or even a narrative that is more thematically complex than a small-town comedy of errors; Tralala offers enough laughs and heart to warrant potential cult status and a dedicated fan base of Parisian musical enthusiasts.

Still Courtesy – SBS Productions
Tralala premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, as part of the Out of Competition – Midnight Screenings section. The film is currently seeking international distribution.

By David Cuevas

David Cuevas is a writer, reporter, and the official festivals editor (US/Canada) for FilmHounds Magazine. In his spare time, you can find him watching a bunch of movies while contemplating on his own existence.

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