(Release Info London schedule; July 10th, 2018, Picturehouse, 18:30)
"Racer And The Jailbird"
When Gino (Mathias Schoenaerts) meets Bénédicte (Adèle Exarchopoulos), it’s love at first sight, passionate, unconditional, fiery. She's working in the family business, and she also drives cars on circuits. Gino is that kind of normal guy, cool, handsome, but he hides a secret. That kind of secret that can endanger your life and the lives of those around you. Gino and Bénédicte will have to fight against fate, reason and their own weaknesses to save their love.
Gino has a very boyish persona. Inside he’s still a little boy. Bénédicte untamed nature and naivety suited Gino’s own character. And then circumstances force her to grow up practically overnight and that opens up the story. Gino is still a heavyweight gangster and a thug, we asked ourselves; what does an elegant gangster look like, someone refined, soft-spoken? Bénédicte falls madly in love with this guy, and vice versa. It’s not that she's fascinated by a dark, mysterious figure and has a crazy one-night stand. This is a love that consumes them for years. He’s not malicious by nature, he’s not calculating. A lot of gangsters seem to have dead eyes, but Gino is alive. There’s still this teenager in him, there’s something vibrant in him. And he’s like Bénédicte, he’s driven by adrenalin; it’s the car, it’s life, it’s adventure. It’s energy discovering itself through someone else, it’s falling in love with that. And that an interesting concept. His love is absolute all the time. There's no going there, he's permanently there, all the time. So you need to feel the need, the desire and the fear. It’s all-in, all the time, and that’s complicated to play, because how do you bring shades into that?
Bénédicte has a mental resilience and pride. She treats Gino, how she loves him in spite of, or rather thanks to, his flaws. Even more than his looks, it’s his scars and his dark side that draw her in. Benedikt lives for Gino and rather like the rapport that they've. One can’t live without the other. She needs him even though she's very independent. He helps her step out of her own shadow, he eases her loneliness but he always respects the person she's. Because he needs her as well. She guides him through life like a beacon in the night. Still, the film does not reveal everything about Bénédicte. Some aspects of her personality and past are left to the viewer to fill in or interpret. For instance, how did she manage to survive without her mother? And why does she let Gno get away with so much? Such is life, after all. We all carry secrets even those closest to us know nothing about. She protects herself at first. But she's willing to pull out all the stops for him. Also, she has no desire to change him, she wants him to keep his freedom. They don’t feel like defending their choice for each other to others. They just want to let their love for each other run it's course. Luckily there are all kinds of different scenes in the movie that help bring out those textures and colours.
"Racer And The Jailbird" is inspired by the French-speaking gangster scene in Belgium of the 1990s and early noughties. Back then the gangster's wives were almost as infamous as the gangsters themselves, and those couples were known for their tumultuous love lives. The film takes one of those real-life stories, dissected it and put it back together in a way like 'The Hormone Mafia" in "Bullhead". It's a fictional tale of love and crime, of desire and failure. A love tragedy, or better, an 'Amour Noir'. "Racer And The Jailbird" is the second part of a crime trilogy. Each part is freely based on a particular moment in Belgian criminal history. For "Bullhead", the source of inspiration was the hormone mafia. This time, the film draws inspiration from notorious Brussels gangs and the equally by adrenaline driven world of auto racing. However, as was the case with "Bullhead", "Racer And The Jailbird" is a film about these gangs, nor a biography of one or another real-life gangster. The foundation of this story is the love between a man and a woman and the impossibility of actualizing their relationship. Their love is thwarted not only by their characters and origins, but also by the blows that fate deals them.
As in "Bullhead", animals are important to the storytelling. From the very first scene it’s obvious that Gino is frightened of dogs. It’s almost as if he himself is a wild dog that must be domesticated. He needs to be tamed and trust in the love he receives. And eventually he does submit. Because that’s what love is in a way; it is not only being seduced but also submitting to your partner. It's a metaphor in the relationship between Gino and Bénédicte. Just like Jacky in "Bullhead", he becomes the very thing he fears, even though he doesn’t realise it. "Bullhead" and "Racer And The Jailbird" are like a diptych. They've a lot in common yet they're also very different.
The film creates a kind of ’Brussels Riviera’. That’s a contradiction, but then so is the movie. Yet in spite of that glamour, the opening is also characterised by a grim atmosphere that develops in the course of the film. Classic motor racing photography is a big inspiration, and the livery of old race cars such as 'The Martini' and 'The Gulf'. Those colours come back in Bénédicte’s outfits. When they meet in Brussels on a grey and overcast day, she's wearing a blue coat with orange high heels. Those are the Gulf colours. The film infuses with the characteristics and grandeur of motor racing but at the same time it had to be obvious the film isn’t set in Cannes or Saint- Tropez, or even Paris.
This film is a meeting of American film noir and the French polar. The storytelling is like the love child of "Heat" and "A Man And A Woman". "Racer And The Jailbird" turns the love story into the sun and the crimes are the moons orbiting around it. It doesn’t have the typical plot of a crime film. Usually the heist goes wrong and the love story is determined by that. This film is different, it’s driven by emotions instead of by the plot. In these days, when there's so much cynicism going on, this film is a kind of antidote. The tagline of the film is; would you fight for something that is already lost? Well, yes, if you love it you will. And that’s why this film is important. It deliberately and explicitly portrays this absolute form of romantic love.