Jack Mimoun & the Secrets of Val Verde [Jack Mimoun et les secrets de Val Verde] — Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023

Review by John P. Harvey.

Once in a while a movie comes along that is so special that it warrants immediate cult status.  This is one such.

History records that the last act of pirate Olivier Levasseur, nicknamed “The Buzzard”, was to toss into the crowd at his hanging on 7 July 1730 a cryptogram, shouting “My treasure for he who can understand”.  Despite the efforts of many treasure hunters, though, most of Levasseur’s plunder remains hidden still.

Jack Mimoun & the Secrets of Val Verde introduces five characters who, nearly 300 years later, end up, more or less voluntarily, on the (fictional) isle of Val Verde in search of the treasure.  Jack Mimoun himself is a television phenomenon as an adventurer having survived three months of hell on the island of Val Verde, and Bruno (Jérôme Commandeur) is his risk-averse manager.  Aurélie Diaz (Joséphine Japy) takes after her father, Léopold (Niels Dubost), who devoted his life to hunting for Levasseur’s treasure trove (but presumably died in the attempt decades ago); she knows roughly where to look, but needs company on the attempt.  Aurélie’s father’s former student, Jonas (Benoît Magimel), now a lecturer and old family friend, regards the hunt as a waste of time.  But Aurélie has already lined up veteran pilot Jean-Marc Bastos (François Damiens), of dangerously mixed competence, for the expedition.

If you see promise in this stellar lineup, you’re not wrong.  Both the film’s adventure and comedy derive largely from these very different characters, their motivations, their treatment of others, and their responses to crises, and these fine actors make the best use of a truly great script.  And settings, sound, and cinematography match the actors’ perfection in their roles.

Jack Mimoun & the Secrets of Val Verde packs everything into a rollicking adventure tale with characters we can believe in and a plot that zings: a little bit naughty, filled with unexpected snares and courage, and, above all, incredibly funny.  It’s one movie you could laugh your way through twice in quick succession — so don’t miss it the first time.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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