Cote d'Azur is almost embarrassingly Gallic: eccentric to the point of having characters suddenly burst into song; unashamed in its preoccupation with sex, sex, sex; politically insistent in its embrace of happy, vacationing working-class characters; and blasé about sexual orientation, whether hetero or homo. Yet writers-directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau have created something thoroughly original that many art-house audiences will take to.

And largely honest, in spite of some over-the-top antics and those few erupting musical numbers that for some will disrupt rather than maintain the magic. (Jacques Demy was a master of this because films like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg were conceived as musicals and unfolded organically as such.)

The filmmakers shot Cote d'Azur on a less well-known but scenic strip of the Riviera. In their story, garage owner Marc (Gilbert Melki) brings his lively family for their summer break to the house he knew as a younger man. Daughter Laura (Sabrina Seyvecou) is quickly off on a motorcycle trip to Spain with her boyfriend. Left behind for all the drama to come is adorable and diminutive 18-year-old Charly (Romain Torres), who Marc and wife Béatrix (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) suspect is gay.

Béatrix, a free spirit from the Netherlands whose secret lover Mathieu (Jacques Bonnaffé) is soon to arrive in town, is comfortable with her son's homosexuality; Marc is not. Charly is apparently closeted, but all may be revealed when his openly gay pal Martin (Édouard Collin) arrives for a visit.

But with the arrival of Martin and, clandestinely, Mathieu, all does not go as expected. Charly takes care of his urges, which may not be homosexual, in frequent showers and Martin fulfills his at the cruising area near the beach. Mathieu and Béatrix take care of their urges anywhere Marc is not. But Marc is not just in the dark; he's in the closet, as the arrival of old flame Didier (Jean-Marc Barr), the local plumber, makes clear.

Cote d'Azur abounds in visual and aural metaphors: Much is conveyed about the sensual power of nature (read sex) through the delicious exteriors and eloquent sounds of the beautiful coast. The film's recurring catchy song, which celebrates seafood ("Crustacés et Coquillages"), also evokes the joy and sensuality that permeate the film. The film delights and surprises, a combo that is important to many audiences.

-Doris Toumarkine