Gawky, grubby, down-at-heel ... but happy

LES APPRENTIS Pierre Salvadori (15)

BACK OF BEYOND Michael Robertson (nc)

HAPPY GILMORE Dennis Dugan (12)

HUSTLER WHITE Bruce La Bruce / Rick Castro (18)

There may be nothing as trenchant in Les Apprentis as the beautiful opening credit sequence - a series of dissolves on an apartment door which mark the passing of four years, accompanied by the voice of Antoine (Francois Cluzet) as he spends those years trying, unsuccessfully, to compose a letter to the woman who left him. Antoine lives in the apartment with Fred (Guillaume Depardieu), a gangly loafer who sustains them with the junk food he steals ("We only eat what fits in your pockets!" Antoine complains). Together, they try to plug the yawning days. Fred pursues Agnes (Claire Larouche), a local girl who agrees to sleep with him if her boyfriend can watch. Antoine gets a job writing for a magazine, until he and Fred bust into the office safe. They drink vodka for breakfast. Antoine has a breakdown. The days just get longer.

Pierre Salvadori's sour comedy suggests Withnail and I without the savagery, or Bertrand Blier on his best behaviour. It's this restraint in the face of excess which makes the picture so sweet. Salvadori's debut, Wild Target, proved that he wasn't afraid of wicked humour, but in Les Apprentis he avoids driving comic scenarios to their extremes, settling instead on a gently parochial tone. He leads us into contrived, farcical situations which we're given ample opportunity to anticipate - Fred's clinch with Agnes being disrupted by her pernickety boyfriend; and an earlier scene where an estate agent ushering prospective buyers around the apartment stumbles on Fred and Antoine in bed together.

But Salvadori locates emotions within these situations which are anything but predictable. When Agnes's boyfriend pulls up an armchair to watch the live bed show, Salvadori doesn't press the scene for laughs, and he doesn't make it seem absurd or sordid. He respects his characters too much to do that. We assume the liaison went swimmingly; Salvadori simply cuts to a peaceful shot of the threesome snuggled up in bed, Fred tugging for his share of the duvet.

And the estate agent, with her expression of embarrassed horror, turns out not to be outraged after all. In fact, in a surreal touch, she's perfectly willing to dispense domestic advice to Antoine, demonstrating how you can clean windows using only water and balls of newspaper. Perhaps Antoine's punishment for burglary - a karate bout with his boss - is stretching credulity, but the humiliation is still tangible enough for the scene to sting.

Salvadori's actors have a mournful air of resignation about them which fits the picture's drizzly feel. Francois Cluzet has Dustin Hoffman's fidgeting, neurotic restlessness, and a mouth that twitches at the corners. He's an expert at self-pity - the emptied eyes, the shoulders set in a permanent shrug - but he has a nice moment of childlike coyness, when Fred reprimands him for stealing a sheet of stamps during the office robbery.

Guillaume Depardieu has inherited his father's bumbling coarseness, but he's a bewitching actor in his own right, and far more pleasing to the eye than his pere. Despite a selection of vomit-coloured shirts, which he climbs into whenever he wants to impress someone, he's much more than the sum of a sadistic costume designer's ideas - wearing orange and mustard wing-collared affairs, with his lank hair greased back behind his ears, he's trying to persuade himself and everyone else that he's the bee's knees, and that's very endearing. He gets the film's best line, too: "Sometimes when I'm next to you," he tells Agnes humbly, "I think I should have a bath." Les Apprentis is a lot like him: gawky, grubby, down-at-heel, but salvaged by streaks of blinding optimism.

With Back of Beyond, the Australian actor Paul Mercurio wades further from the glory of Strictly Ballroom and toward his only possible future: daytime soap opera. He certainly has the lack of talent for it, as a mechanic whose petrol station plays host to three diamond thieves. Minor characters deliver pat observations - a travelling saleswoman stops by to note that "You don't get a second chance at happiness", while an Aboriginal ghost warns, "It's not easy letting go when you love someone." The screenwriter will undoubtedly be accompanying Mercurio to the land of Neighbours.

You wait years for a sports movie laced with sick jokes, then two come along at once: last week's Kingpin and now the golfing comedy Happy Gilmore. Both have running gags about artificial limbs. But Happy Gilmore has the brilliant, jittery Adam Sandler, and a scene with Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed from the Rocky films) sitting on a golf course playing "We've Only Just Begun" on a grand piano. It is therefore the better film.

It's hard to know what to say about Hustler White without using diagrams. This is gay pornography shot on dirty 16mm, with spiky dialogue, a few scattergun movie references, and a scene involving an amputee which ... no, I'd definitely need a diagram to explain that one. There's an audience for it, however small, though it will doubtless be a novelty for them to see a film that doesn't come wrapped in a brown paper bag. Though you feel it should.

n On general release from Friday

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee