France's Sexiest Leading Man Speaks

A mesmerizing chat with the star of gangster epic Mesrine

Cassel: In France, it was a gun pointing at the audience, but you can't do that here. We also had me bleeding in a Jesus-like pose, but you can't do that here, either.

Me: They're so serious about religion here for some reason.

Cassel: You're a young country!

Cassel: "I can be handsome, ugly, charming, or scary."
Cassel: "I can be handsome, ugly, charming, or scary."

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La Daily Musto
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The Squid and the Whale of a Time

We are practically a toddler of a nation, and yet we have so much going on culturally! Last week, I was enthralled by the Flying Karamazov Brothers' mixture of precision stunts and anarchic humor in their 4Play show at the Minetta Lane Theatre, especially when the oldest "brother" agreed to juggle three objects contributed by the audience. He ended up with a squid, a pie, and a box covered with Crisco. "The squid is the easy one," he remarked, objects flying, and another brother chimed in, "That's not nice. It's a perfectly respectable squid."

Later, the guys dazzled again by tossing bowling pins back and forth with a coordination that had the crowd watching in silent awe. "You could hear a pin drop," quipped a Karamazov.

I juggled sea life, casinos, and rock stars in Atlantic City, which just sent us down to prove there's some nouvelle vague realness there beyond the glitz and gambling. First, they took us on a cruise boat out to the ocean, where I looked for dolphins (if not squid) amid the "dancing waters" of two seasick customers cross-vomiting on the lower deck. There was a less dangerous pool party at the Chelsea Hotel, a non-gaming establishment where the lack of clanking brings some sanity—and even a Miami-ish feel—to the casino area.

And then came the glitz: a Boardwalk Hall concert by the Black Eyed Peas, whom I always thought were a band but are more like a choreographed dance troupe pumping out anthemy pop songs with hip-hop breaks and lots of repetition and spelling for the hard of hearing.

It's like if the cast of the old kiddie show Zoom was abducted by Jame Gumb but crawled up out of the death pit and found the acid, sequins, and vocoder. The songs with the strongest melodies sound lifted from "Like a Prayer" and "Torn," but Fergie is entertainingly unself-conscious, will.i.am. does a hot old-school DJ set, and the concert's robo-flash made me hope they're only calling this The E.N.D. World tour because their Mayan calendar had a typo. And now, back to my calamari, my pie, and, especially, my Crisco.

musto@villagevoice.com

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