Cote D'Azur contains all the elements of French farce, right down to the animated opening credits, but co-directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau mix everything up a little differently, and for a different purpose. The movie starts—as these sorts of movies often do—with a French family on vacation. The mother, played by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, has been having an affair with another man, who unexpectedly shows up at the beach. The son, Romain Torres, has invited along his gay best friend Edouard Collin, though Torres is unsure about his own sexuality, or whether he wants to take their friendship to the next level. (He only knows he likes masturbating. A lot.) And Gilbert Melki plays the father, who tries to be tolerant of everyone's sexual proclivities, because he himself is secretly gay.
The film's original French title is Crustacés & Coquillages (or, with a little imaginative translation, Cockles & Mussels), which more accurately conveys the tone of rampant sensuality. Ducastel and Martineau explore all five senses. In an early scene, Melki slurps down oysters and his wife teases him about the salty flavor, not realizing that he's intimately familiar with the taste of semen. Later scenes include a couple of off-the-cuff musical numbers, and light samba runs throughout the soundtrack. And characters often run up the stairs to take long, hot showers, where they can touch themselves in private. The possibility of sex hangs over everything, from walks on the beach (where gay men cruise) to house calls by the plumber (who turns out to be one of Melki's ex-boyfriends).
But aside from the sex, not much happens in Cote D'Azur, and what does happen continues to happen repeatedly. Torres teases Collin, Collin teases Melki, Melki teases Tedeschi, and one by one, they hit the showers to jack off. There's some complexity to the relationship between Torres and Melki—the son wants to shock his father, while the father just wants his son to find the happiness he couldn't—and there's some pathos in the way Melki pins his conversion to heterosexuality on the AIDS epidemic. But because Ducastel and Martineau pitch this scenario as neither wacky nor melodramatic, it's hard to care much about everyone's sexual frustrations. Their problems are neither funny nor moving, and as sweetly fantastic as the eventual solution is, it's hardly a surprise. In the end, all these sexual shenanigans just provide an excuse to play some seductive music and drink in some seaside scenery. Ah, Europe.