Dardenne brothers’ simple story targets Palme d’Or record

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Belgium’s Dardenne brothers on Sunday premiered their “Kid With a Bike” at Cannes, with the two-times Palme d’Or winners showing again their stunning capacity for unsentimental storytelling. In his first screen appearance, Thomas Doret plays Cyril, 11, who has been temporarily abandoned by his father at a foster home, and from the title to the final shot, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s deceptive simplicity rules. Any child’s reaction to such abandonment would be non-acceptance — and Cyril is no different.
His anger is driven by incomprehension as he searches desperately for a way to exist through someone else after his most fundamental relationship has been severed, symbolised at the start by his father’s dead phone line. The men he encounters along the way care little for his plight, until he literally stumbles upon hairdresser Samantha, played by Cecile de France, a Belgian actress who built her reputation in France and Hollywood.
For once the brothers wanted to work with a known actress, and they chose France, who ends up looking after Cyril, because of her “luminous and obvious presence,” Luc Dardenne told journalists after the screening. The plot is based on a news story the brothers — who also wrote the script — heard in Japan about a boy abandonned by his father at an orphanage, and the brothers talked about the story for years, Luc said. “It’s a love story: can the love of a woman help this child escape his violence?” said Luc. Cyril is always on the move, whether trying to run away from his overseers at the foster home or just riding around on his beloved bicycle, resulting in some beautiful long tracking shots. Jean-Pierre said the story is something of a fairy tale, with obvious parallels to Little Red Riding Hood — the forest is a place of temptation, Cyril wears red, the big bad wolf is drug dealer Wes and Samantha is the fairy. The Dardenne brothers are part of an elite club of only six double Palme d’Or winners — including Francis Ford Coppola and Emir Kusturica — having won in 1999 with “Rosetta” and again in 2005 with “The Child”.