Cannes 2023 Review: THE OTHER LAURENS, Deadpan Belgian Neo-Noir with Visual Flair
Olivier Rabourdin and Louise Leroy star; Claude Schmitz directed.
A case of mistaken identity in Claude Schmitz’s The Other Laurens plays out like a neo-noir directed by Aki Kaurismaki or a Belgian Big Lebowski with New Wave aesthetics.
In the center of all the convoluted plot twists and turns is Gabriel Laurens (Olivier Rabourdin), an unkempt, sad, middle-aged, private investigator specializing in lurid marriage infidelity cases, whose mother is dying in the hospital. It is pretty clear that his more flamboyant twin brother François has always been his mother’s favorite... and everyone else’s, it turns out.
Gabriel’s uneventful life gets turned upside down when his sexy niece, Jade (Louise Leroy) shows up at his doorstep, informing him of François’s death and suggesting there might have been a foul play in his accidental death. She doesn’t trust the local authorities and insists that Gabriel investigate. She also feigns that she is being followed by a dangerous man on a bike. Gabriel reluctantly agrees to accompany Jade to her home in the south.
When they get to Perpignan, a town in southern France bordering Spain, Gabriel is coldly received by François’s American wife Shelby (Kate Moran, of Yan Gonzalez films) and her entourage, an aging biker gang headed by Valery (Marc Barbe), living in her opulent white mansion. Shelby says dryly of Gabriel’s appearance, “like seeing a ghost, the same but out of focus.”
Even though Gabriel is eager to get back to Brussels, things keep getting in the way of his departure every time. And he begins to doubt that it was a automobile accident that resulted in the death of his brother. Someone’s hiding something.
With theatrical lighting and primary and neon colors, The Other Laurens has the look and feel of highly stylized 1980’s New Wave aesthetics; think of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva or Luc Besson’s Subway. It’s in the yellow of the sports car, Jade’s tight blue jeans and black leather jackets, and neon signs of a nightclub.
Rabourdin’s accidental hero, skulking around like 80's Gerard Depardieu, is a charming mess caught among shady side of his brother’s dealings, Shelby’s scheming, the Spanish mob, and Jade’s affection.
While snooping around Spain with Jade, to find out what François was up to there, Gabriel attempts to leave everything behind once again, denouncing François’ gaudy lifestyles and how his bad taste permeates everything around him. It is revealed he has never got over the fact that his twin brother stole away the love of his life, Jade’s mother, from him. Gabriel and Jade exchange some hurtful truths to each other.
Then in an act of revenge, Gabriel hooks up with François’s Spanish mistress, whose affair started the whole mess in the first place, by pretending that he is his twin brother. Then he figures things out, building up to the final shootout between Shelby’s biker gangs and the Spaniards, resulting a daring helicopter escape involving Shelby’s American pilot.
The Other Laurens is an enjoyable deadpan noir with visual flair, resembling the cool era of filmmaking.
The film plays as a Director’s Fortnight selection at the Cannes Film Festival.
Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on everything cinema and beyond can be found at www.dustinchang.com