Sunday, June 02, 2013

Je suis supporter du Standard – Riton Liebman

Je suis supporter du Standard (Riton Liebman – France/Belgium) 90 minutes

Standard Liege (or, to give the club its full title, FC Royal Standard de Liège) is not Belgian football’s most successful club, its ten titles paling in comparison to Anderlecht’s 32, Club Brugge’s 13 or even now-lowly Saint-Gilloise’s 11. Standard are, however, a sentimental favourite among Belgians, with their appeal, like few other things in the country, straddling its linguistic divide. Riton Liebman, who first came to attention as a teenager in Bertrand Blier’s 1978 comedy Préparez vos mouchoirs, directs his first features and stars as Milou, who, like Liebman, is a Bruxellois who fell in love with Standard as a child (no doubt because the 1960s and 1970s were the club’s glory years). Je suis supporter du Standard is a Belgian Fever Pitch of sorts though it bears better comparison with David Evans’ so-so 1997 film than Nick Hornby’s fine book, published five years earlier.

Milou is a forty-year-old n’er-do-well, a man-child living alone among his Standard memorabilia and his Panini stickers, who never leaves the house without one of his dozens of replica shirts and owes his job as a driving instructor to the fact his uncle owns the driving school; he reminds you of those football fans who pop up from time to time in the side columns of tabloid newspapers having named their first-born after the entire squad. This ought to make him prime material for a good comedy, all the more given his mother is a psychoanalyst and he, like Liebman, is Jewish. The script makes some play with the psychoanalysis and the humour of Jewish neuroticism but it is soon cast aside in favour of rather less lofty laughs. Milou, when he messes up on a promising date (Léa Drucker), belatedly realises he has an addiction and tries to get it under control – the title refers to the standard Alcoholics Anonymous introduction, and Milou unsuccessfully tries to get AA to let him in as a ‘footballic’.

The jokes in the film are predictable and lame, mainly because they are mined from situations that just don’t happen in real life. Among these are when a friend of Milou, on an away trip to Gent, leaves a ticket for the late-arriving Milou, on the gate with a match steward who doesn’t speak French. Milou subsequently watches the match in a Gent supporters bar in the shadow of the stadium (surely these fans would all be at the match?) and gets found out when he celebrates a Standard goal and is tossed in the nearby canal. Such creaky mechanics are an all-too-common feature of the plot and the football-supporting-as-addiction trope is not terribly convincing, especially given Liebman, in real life, battled heroin addiction for a long time. Neither is Liebman much of a director – his visual palette hardly stretches beyond the functionality of television. A film whose appeal to football fans (its obvious target) will be dented by a rather facile critique of their passion, its hard to see who will be interested by Je suis supporter du Standard.