Rooting for a new life on the open road


After a bad day, I pamper myself by mapping out, hour by hour, scene by scene, a fantasy date with Jean Reno.

Most women laugh when I tell them this: In their eyes Jean Reno is a comic relief, a blundering buffoon, the kind of guy who would take a woman to Denny’s and then order two cheeseburgers without bothering to ask her what she wants.

“Jean Reno?” they hoot. “He’s not a fantasy date. He’s your fantasy date’s goofy friend who’s always butting into quality time with your fantasy date.”

This goes to show you how misguided female notions are, and also explains why the majority of my women friends spend their time moaning about the lack of available men. Don’t you see girls, that Jean Reno is sweet, undemanding, available for lunch whenever? At 51, he still smiles like a 12-year-old boy just presented with his first 12-speed mountain bike.

What I would do with Reno… well, I don’t want to get into too much detail, you understand. But I will say that our time together would involve him in a big deep chair and me bending over with a can of shaving cream. Never mind that in a couple of hours that mossy 5 o’clock shadow would creep right back on — there would be the untold satisfaction of seeing him grunt with pleasure while I would croon: “There mon cherie vieux, doesn’t that feel so much better?”

To one like myself, “Les Truffes (Truffles)” is pure pleasure: 85 minutes of Jean Reno in practically every frame. The film itself is no extravagant masterpiece; it’s a French midsize-budget job with a competent staff and veteran director Bernard Nauer.

Reno stars as Patrick, a burnt-out boxer who never made it. After a particularly bad bout, Patrick decides he has taken his last punch and skips town in his battered Peugeot. He has vague plans to run a pizza truck in the south of France. On the way, he hooks up with Nathaniel (Christian Charmetant), a sleazebag swindler dressed like an insurance salesman. The pair head south, each telling depressing stories of how they messed up their lives and relationships and how this move was going to change everything for the better.

As far as road movies go, this one is pretty much run-of-the-mill, though there are moments of surprise which, in accordance with the title, crop up here and there like truffles in the forest. A prize scene is when the pair befriend an old bankrupt winemaker, determined to destroy his precious collection of fine wines rather than let the bank repossess it. He floods his cellar with wine, then invites Patrick and Nathaniel to swim in it, swill in it, drink until their heads burst.

The following morning the duo enter a raffle contest and win a baby pig. Unfortunately, Martinez is considerably less charming than Babe, but the two decide to keep it, rigged in a disposable diaper. Martinez stays atop the back seat, rooting and sniffing the entire journey. Every so often, Nathaniel must change its diaper.

But the trio doesn’t last for long, as women (toujours la femme!) make their entrance and then it’s goodbye camaraderie, hello lies and schemes and hormonal disorder. Patrick is an artist when it comes to getting what he wants and then driving away. Nathaniel lacks this technique and ends up proposing to the first woman who looks at him. It feels like true love for about five minutes, then he weasles out of his commitment and steals her mother’s car.

Such escapades only add to their disillusionment in one another, their trip and the pizza venture. The story peters out to a more or less hopeful ending, but there is a feeling that with this pair, hope will soon be squandered and left in the gutter.

And isn’t that the case with a lot of guys? They’re crazy and clueless. And when a woman tries to straighten them out (like in this movie) they rear like frightened horses. Guys. They think monogamy is some kind of wood and stability like some kind of insurance policy. Who needs such things when the open road stretches endlessly ahead and there’s a pig in the back seat to cheer you up?

It must be noted that when it comes to playing guys, you couldn’t get a guyer guy than Reno. For many other men, guyhood may be just a phase one goes through before seeing the light of maturity. But Reno will remain blind to that light, will keep bumping in the dark until he’s covered with bruises.

And of course some miniskirted babe will always be there with a roll of bandages, darn it.

“Les Truffes” (released in Japan as “Boxer”) is playing as the late show at Cinema Qualite in Shinjuku.