Calvet (Director: Dominic Allan): The story that Jean-Marc Calvet tells in this essen­tially one-man show is so unbe­liev­able that you might find your­self not believ­ing it. But dir­ector Allan, who doesn’t appear in the film, was on hand to assure the audi­ence that he has done his research, and it all checks out. Here is yet another case where the truth is stranger than fic­tion.

Calvet today is a renowned painter who lives in Nicaragua and sells his work in New York gal­ler­ies. But less than a dec­ade ago, he’d never picked up a paint­brush. Worse, he was a man on such a path of self-destruc­tion that nobody seemed able to divert him.

Sure, he’d been a troubled teen­ager grow­ing up in the south of France, strug­gling with drug addic­tion and sexual abuse, but then he entered the Foreign Legion and traveled the world. He met a nice woman, got her preg­nant, and became a cop. But even after his son Kevin was born, Calvet con­tin­ued to dabble with the dark side. His drink­ing and drug prob­lem never really went away, and he got into rack­et­eer­ing. He went on to work in private secur­ity, and even served as a body­guard for American stars like Mel Gibson, Forest Whittaker and Tim Robbins who were vis­it­ing the Cannes Film Festival.

Through con­nec­tions, he began work­ing as a body­guard for a shady American who offered him a huge salary to come back to the States with him. But he’d have to cut off all ties, leav­ing his wife and young son behind. Taking a chance, Calvet moved to Miami to become the man’s trus­ted pro­tector, but the arrange­ment soured when he real­ized he wasn’t get­ting the prom­ised money. By this time he’d real­ized that he was work­ing for a mob­ster, and the man was so para­noid that he had all his bank accounts in Calvet’s name. It was only a mat­ter of time before Calvet began to look for an oppor­tun­ity to get paid. When the time came, he absconded with more than half a mil­lion dol­lars and found his way to Central America.

In Costa Rica, Calvet bought him­self a house and a nightclub, but became too para­lyzed by his fear to live the high life for long. It’s here where his addic­tions nearly took him, and his para­noia mixed with his tre­mend­ous guilt over abandon­ing his child. Punishing him­self with lar­ger and lar­ger doses of drugs and booze, he began to hear voices and see vis­ions. Almost in a trance, he dis­covered paint cans under his stair­case and after plunging his fists into them, began to smear the walls of his house. In this way, he dis­covered paint­ing.

Years later, clean and sober and using his art as ther­apy, he resolves to find Kevin and hope­fully to recon­cile. While the first part of the film fea­tures Calvet remem­ber­ing his past, the last half is unwrit­ten as the film­maker travels with him in search of his lost boy. It’s clear how import­ant this is to him, and also how nervous he is about the out­come.

The res­ult­ing film is by turns har­row­ing, grip­ping, and mov­ing. Through art and sheer force of will, Calvet is able to des­troy the dark parts of his per­son­al­ity and redis­cover the lost boy in him­self. Only then does he feel worthy enough to search for Kevin. Director Allan knows when to stay out of the way, although his visual and sonic touches do add con­sid­er­ably to the telling of the tale. And what a tale it is.

Official site of the film

This entry was posted in Documentaries, Film Festivals and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.