1 December 2023

Jean-Philippe (Philippe Katerine) and Sophie (Sophie Letourneur) in “Travels in Italy”, by Sophie Letourneur.


Almost twenty years ago, since his first short film, head in the void (2004), and in the meantime five other feature films in the rearview mirror (Ranch Life, The Coquillettes…), that Sophie Letourneur tinkers with atypical comedies on the crest of autofiction, taking an almost ethnographic look at various tribes of bohemian and flour-coated Parisians. After Enormous (2020), the story of a ramshackle pregnancy, her biggest theatrical success to date, Trips to Italy continues an X-ray of the straight couple, this funny dysfunctional machine that expends mad energy going around in circles, like a headless duck. Letourneur, an anthropologist with magnifying glasses, this time focuses on the household in the phase of weariness, encrusted in the daily routine, of which the director herself embodies the feminine element, facing a partner played by the indescribable cuckoo slowman Philippe Katerine .

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers The filmmaker Sophie Letourneur examines the couple with Philippe Katerine, in a burlesque autofiction

From the first scene, we find these two, Sophie and “Jean-Phi”, during a bus trip, chatting, mask on the muzzle, how to get out of the train-train or “make the ordinary extraordinary”. After Homeric negotiations, also involving the custody of the children, a trip to Sicily is chosen, at the insistence of Madame, while Monsieur is reluctant. Arrived together in Palermo, rental car in hand and backpacker’s guide in the pocket, here they are zigzagging between Agrigento, Syracuse, Vulcano, Taormina, etc. However out of place they may be, these daddies nevertheless form an out of tune duo, fueling contradiction and dual impulses, slipping from scrambles to rework, like two soloists tangled in a common score. Where to eat, drink, sleep, bathe, what visit, what activity, so many questions that offer themselves as new objects of infinite talks, while, somewhere in the middle of all this, still lies this flame that remains to be stir up.

Trips to Italy thus offers a reinterpretation of Roberto Rossellini’s masterpiece, Journey to Italie (1954), where a disenchanted English couple, Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders, warmed up in contact with the splendours of Italy, a theme here declined in a trivial and disheveled way. Letourneur’s first comical gesture is to undermine the romantic expectation of travel. The coveted Sicily is first and foremost that of signposted tourist routes, car parks in single file, rows of ticket offices and gates: a whole jumble of protocols that punctuate the return of the ordinary. The hotel room turns out to be much less “matrimonial” than it appeared in the promotional video of the online site and, at the top of the laboriously climbed volcano, only a crater thrones (“Just a hole, otherwise it’s not much…”).

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