Judge Joel Pearce likes to drive around in his 1978 Chevy Vega.
Woo! Belgian road trip!
If there's anything we've learned from decades of road movies, it's that strange things happen when you get out on the open road. You meet strange people, have quirky adventures, and ultimately, you probably find yourself. Evidently, this is also true in Belgium.
Facts of the Case
Yvan (Bouli Lanners, A Very Long Engagement) arrives home one night from his job as an American classic car importer to discover Didier (Fabrice Adde, L'insurgée), a young robber, hiding under his bed. Once they wait each other out, they find themselves on a strange journey to return Didier to his home near the French border. It won't turn out to be the simple journey they had expected.
Eldorado is ostensibly an indie road-trip movie, the likes of which we've been seeing for decades. It features two main characters with little in common, on a trip that neither of them wants to make. On the way, they find themselves in bizarre circumstances, and run into genuinely strange characters. Tonally, it's not much different than what we've seen before either, featuring a strange mix of dry humor, existential musings and pathos.
Somehow, though, it feels much fresher than it should, given it's generic setup and structure. I think a large part of this is cultural. Lanners has done some interesting things with Belgian and American culture here. While it takes place in Belgium, Lanners makes no attempt to hide his American influences. It is named after the Chevy Eldorado that Yvan drives, and he sells imported American cars. The soundtrack features several American indie songs. If it weren't for the language, Eldorado could be transplanted into almost any part of North America. Ironically, the Eldorado was a Cadillac, not a Chevy, which must have been intentional. I'm not sure what that means, though.
That said, I'm not promising American audiences will forget they are watching a French film. There's something distinctly European about the aesthetic of the film, especially as each character reaches the end of their journey. In American cinema, we expect a film like this to finish with humor and catharsis, or else lead to ultimate nihilism and self-destruction like Thelma and Louise. Here, the characters are still full of ambiguity, and many viewers will be troubled by where Eldorado goes.
For fans of indie and festival films, though, there's a lot to like about Eldorado. It has an interesting look delivered with some great cinematography, a pair of fascinating and well-performed main characters, and it doesn't overstay its welcome at 80 minutes long. Film Movement has made a good choice as part of its festival series. For the uninitiated, Film Movement releases a single festival film each month. If that sounds interesting to you, Eldorado would be a good place to start.
The DVD is fairly technically solid as well. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen, in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The color transfer is excellent, with a surprising level of vibrancy. The clarity isn't as strong, with some compression throughout and some noticeable edge enhancement. The sound is fine, though it is only presented in a stereo track. In terms of special features, there is a Swiss short film called Icebergs, which features some of the funniest slang translation that I have ever seen. Beyond that, we don't get much (a commentary would have been nice).
For the right viewers, Eldorado will really strike a chord. It's a fine piece of filmmaking and a clever little road trip movie. For those expecting something like Road Trip, however, I would recommend staying on this side of the Atlantic. It's still a European art movie at heart.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Film Movement
• Short Film
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