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Là Bas (1994)


Main image of Là Bas (1994)
DirectorAndrew Kötting
Production CompaniesBBC, BFI Production Board
ProducersTatiana Kennedy, Eliza Mellor
ScreenplayMark Wheatley, Andrew Kötting
CinematographyNick Gordon-Smith
MusicDavid Burnand

Cast: Olivier Wurtz (Jean-Luc); Roberta Fox (Angeline); Michael Gunn (Geordie); Charlie Condou (Jackie); James Hooton (Keith)

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With the Channel Tunnel closed Parisian Angeline and her lover encounter an extraordinary collection of people in a Bexhill-on-Sea bed and breakfast.

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Taking as its departure point the 1993 opening of the Channel Tunnel, Là Bas (d. Andrew Kötting, 1994) is a playful burlesque on cultural difference, eccentricity and passion. Using different locations, Kötting knits together an imaginary tunnel, with tickets sold like a seaside attraction, through which one walks between England and France (the interior shots of the tunnel are of the Greenwich foot tunnel), and which is subject to random and sudden closure like many other British forms of transport.

Kötting dissociates sound and image, intercutting footage of ostriches and giraffes to parody the 'exotic' differences between England and France. Geordie, shot from a low angle, appears to be a giant; the French lovers' conversation is only intermittently and erratically subtitled in English, and even the elderly trio of bed and breakfast landladies are not what they seem.

While the lustiness of the French is loudly proclaimed (Angeline and Jean-Luc have sex in a series of increasingly bizarre positions), the feeling of the English is quieter and stranger, but stronger. The film's translation of Là Bas ('Down There') is the subterranean depth of the tunnel and also the genitals of the lovers, but ultimately the eccentric passion deep in the hearts of the English.

Danny Birchall

*This film is included in the BFI DVD of 'Gallivant'.

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Video Clips
1. Geordie's advice (3:18)
2. Through the tunnel (3:03)
3. English breakfast (2:51)
Complete film (19:29)
Stills from La Bas
Kötting, Andrew (1958-)
They Started Here