Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 7 NYFF: A Scrappy 'The Kid with a Bike'

Egon Di Mateo and Thomas Doret as Cyril in "The Kid with a Bike." Photo by Christine Plenus.

ADULTS who wish to see mature films are not usually drawn to ones that star children, and logically so.

This is not the case for "The Kid with a Bike." In fact, it is very much an adult film, though the stars are a child and his reliable transport.

Thomas Doret gives a command performance as the title character, Cyril, who has to accept love from alternate sources in Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne's modern-day fairytale. The film premieres today at the 49th New York Film Festival.

Cyril lives in an orphanage to which his down-on-his-luck father has abandoned him. Everyone seems to grasp the situation except the child. And who expects him to? Children don’t tend to believe such terrible things about their parents. What plays out is a tale of a boy on the cusp of adolescence who is cast off and doesn’t know how to express his hurt and dismay – at least not in a constructive way. He rejects love from a source that will nurture him while at the same time is attracted by one – for fairly obvious reasons – that will destroy him.

One reason that the directors chose TD for the role of Cyril is because of his fragile looks. This is especially true during one scene in which it appears that he is done for. Quite the opposite is true, however. The young actor delivers a very convincing physical performance. When he’s not riding like the wind, he is running, whether to escape the authorities or to get somewhere quick, fast and in a hurry. (See trailer below).

In this fairytale, co-director LD said in a press conference after the press screening, Amanda (Cécile De France) is the fairy godmother. It is she to whom Cyril literally attaches himself after he makes an escape from the orphanage to return to the apartment his father rented. After that incident she returns to the orphanage with his bike and agrees to let him stay with her on weekends. The forest where Cyril has some bad experiences, including with a young drug dealer type (Egon Di Mateo) reminiscent of Bill Sikes in “Oliver Twist,” represents evil.

Through “The Kid with a Bike,” the viewer is afforded glimpses into the operation of Belgium’s orphanage system. It seems very civilized, allowing for weekend foster parents. Most illuminating is its treatment of problem children. Cyril’s behavior would not be tolerated with such tender understanding, indulgence and patience in the United States.

A scene from the restored version of “You Are Not I.” The eerie film is a product of New York’s post-punk downtown scene that played the festival circuit in the 80s. A salvageable version was thought lost forever until a print was unearthed among Paul Bowles’ belongings in 2009 in North Africa. The film is adapted from the PB 1948 short story of the same name. Photo from 49th New York Film Festival.

“The Kid with a Bike” is an engaging love story that doesn’t try to manipulate the heartstrings, though the subject matter lends itself to such a machination.

"The Kid with a Bike" is in French with English subtitles.

Other screenings and events today at NYFF include "Dreileben, Pt. 3,” “Till We Meet Again,” “A Diary of Chuji's Travels,” "The Burmese Harp, "20 Years of Art Cinema: A Tribute to Sony Pictures Classics" and “You Are Not I.”

Visit to learn more about the 49th New York Film Festival: including schedule, repeat screenings, ticket and venue information.

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