On Tour (Mathieu Amalric, 2010)

“A likably rambling survey of ephemeral community, a portrait of the artist as a washed-up family man and pimp, and a quasi-documentary about brassy stage personas.” – Fernando F. Croce, SLANT

Drafthouse Films LogoJoachim, an ostracized former Parisian television producer, returns from America with a New Burlesque strip-tease ensemble to whom he has promised a tour of France culminating in a grand finale in Paris.  Traveling from city to city, the curvaceous showgirls create a community of warmth and hedonism despite the impersonal hotels and little money.  When the venue for the Paris show falls through, Joachim’s grip on the situation and himself weakens, all under the watchful eyes of his performers.  A winner at Cannes and nominated for 7 César awards, Mathieu Amalric’s On Tour captures all the glamor, the stress, the intimacy, and the freedom of the artist’s life on the road.

Special Features:

  • Rodolphe Gonzales’ documentary on the making of On Tour
  • Interviews with cast and crew
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Gary Beeber’s 60-minute documentary on the creation of the new burlesque scene in New York City, Dirty Martini and the New Burlesque
  • 16-page booklet featuring an interview with director/actor Mathieu Amalric and an essay by burlesque historian and performer Jo “Boobs” Weldon

“Pasties and Tassels” Edition – Package Includes:

  • On Tour on Blu-ray or Standard DVD featuring over 2 hours of bonus materials
  • High quality 720p HD Digital Download of the Film
  • Instant Download of the 16-track Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, including 4 by performer and actress Kitten on the Keys
  • 27″ x 40″ Theatrical Poster
  • 1 Pair of Red Sequined Pasties with Tassels

Mathieu Amalric’s On Tour (2010) seems to be something of  a middle child.  Despite a lukewarm reception when it debuted at Cannes, the film won the FIPRESCI award and Amalric took Best Director honours.  The film then collected 7 César nominations (Best Film, Director, Cinematography, Editing, Sounds an Costume Designs) but failed to find North American distribution.  For all its winning qualities, On Tour never seems good enough, never seems to give enough, to entirely satisfy its popular gatekeepers.  It’s a shame, as the film’s weary observation of the transient life of the carnivalesque is a thing of beauty.  It expresses the novelty of new environs, while also maintaining the uprooted drowsiness of never settling in one comfortable, familiar place.

On Tour was inspired by a confluence of works and events – Amalric’s fascination with Colette’s 1913 serialized notes on her life as an actress and stage performer collected as The Other Side of the Music-Hall, an article in Libération on the New Burlesque’s tour appearance at Théâtre le Zèbre, a Parisian café, and the sudden suicide of French independent producer Humbert Balsan.  From there, Amalric developed the story of Joachim, an exiled Parisian TV producer, managing the French tour of an American neo-burlesque troupe through remote French cities, never reaching the tour’s ultimate goal of Paris.  In the liminal spaces of small town bars, cabarets, hotels, gas stations and grocery stores, sad-sack Joachim stands in contrast with the troupe of female performers whose complexities burst with bravery, sensuality, timidity, charisma, fragility, and spontaneity.  Complaints about the slightness of Amalric’s characterizations seem to discount the observational approach of the film and the complexity of his characters whose motivations and contradictions are entirely human and beyond full explication in a mere 112 minutes.

And while Joachim stands at the centre of the film, Les Girls (Mimi Le Meaux, Kitten on the Keys, Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muz, Evie Lovelle, and Roky Roulette) are its stars.  Each are distinctive in age, body shape, personality, and talent and none are without their own character flaws or tics, but all are admirable for their unrepentant vitality, giving On Tour its socio-political, feminist relevance,  The bodies and brashness of the performers resist hegemonic attitudes of beauty and femininity.  In Amalric’s words, “These girls have politics in their bodies, a resistance to formatted physiques which requires no words.”  The immediacy of the women is enhanced in the film by Amalric’s canny choice to film their performances (on-stage and off) during real shows with actual audiences, infusing On Tour with an enhanced sense of vivacity and blurring the line between documentary and drama.

Readers of my former blog may recall that I originally proposed On Tour as a potential title for the Criterion Collection, citing the frequent comparison to John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) and a kinship to Federico Fellini’s fondness for exaggeration (particularly regarding the female form) and his flair for the picaresque.  Reconsidering the title here, something about On Tour seems to declare itself as better suited to the Drafthouse Films series.  The label’s recent acquisitions at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival (Borgman (Alex van Warmerdam, 2013), The Congress (Ari Folman, 2013), and Nothing Bad Can Happen (Katrin Gebbe, 2013)) demonstrates its willingness to champion smaller films lacking broad critical acceptance, hype, or festival awards.  On Tour is another of these little-films-that-could, a grimly wistful dream through a rarely attended to portion of France with just enough bawdiness thrown in for good measure.  Drafthouse would be well served to look just a little farther back into Cannes’ in competition films, as On Tour is still seems to wait for North American distribution.

On Tour PosterDrafthouse’s preference for original poster art for their own hard media releases is easy to accept when one looks at the art for On Tour.  It appears ready-made – simple, graphic, eye-catching.  The gigantic, glamourous Mimi and the tiny, entwined Joachim beautifully encapsulates the power dynamic that motivates much fo the film, making the poster wonderfully representative.  The art seems to channel that used for Fellini films, which seems apt given the carnivalesque, voluptuous quality of On Tour.  Punch this up with some English translation of the text and some embossing and glitter to evoke that burlesque decadence of the cabaret and you’ve got a definite winner.

Credits:  The documentary, cast and crew interviews, and trailer are all features on other European releases of On Tour.  Gary Beeber’s Dirty Martini and the New Burlesque does have a DVD release, but its length, subject matter, and shared personalities would make it a relevant and enlightening special feature, and so we’ve included it as well.  Jo “Boobs” Weldon is a blogger, dancer, and headmistress to The New York School of Burlesque, making her an excellent contributor for a booklet essay.  On Tour has a lively, rockin’ soundtrack and its inclusion of numbers by burlesque performer and On Tour actress Kitten on the Keys makes it an essential inclusion.  And who doesn’t love a spinning tassel at the end of a pasty?

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