Director: Yann Moix

A sweetly calibrated comic portrait of one man’s struggle with the modern mania to be a celebrity, Podium marks a sparkling debut for director Yann Moix and adds another memorable lead performance of Benoit Poelvoorde’s distinguished career of playing offbeat losers with outsized egos. Based around an impersonator of French pop idol Claude Francois who reluctantly hangs up his ’60s and ’70s duds to live in the present, the basic template is universal — how to reconcile showbiz (or any risky ambition) with the demands of family.
The film begins starts with vintage footage of the national newscast that announced Francois’ death on March 11, 1978. The entertainer, who composed and performed a string of hits was electrocuted while changing a light bulb near his bath. Newsreel footage of distraught mourners screaming and fainting at his funeral is intercut with black-and-white archival footage of the cute and charismatic Francois singingand dancing up a storm while fans fight over the shirt off his back. The films protagonist Bernard Frederic (Poelvoorde) makes his living — such as it is — as a Francois impersonator, opening shopping malls andentertaining at dopey regional events. When a TV host announces she’ll be the emcee for a primetime show ofcelebrity imitators to be broadcast live with a handsome jackpot for the winner, Bernard feels he can compete and win.
Although Bernard is frankly ornery in the pursuit of his goal, Poelvoorde makes his ambition and bristling self-confidence touching as well as funny. Rouve is adorable as the compliant sidekick who only wants to worship in reflected glory. Julie Depardieu is spot-on as a working class mom who loves her husband, but doesn’t share his taste in music. The cast couldn’t be better. Musical numbers, with’60s and ’70s resonances, including split screens and go-go era staging, are great fun. The film builds to a surprise finale withhumour and poignancy.

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