Archive for April, 2011
Predictable from beginning to end, but who cares? La Proie is completely enjoyable, and damn it, it’s a welcome change to see a French guy performing stunts instead of Bruce Willis or Tom Cruise. Also, it’s refreshing to see a generation of young French directors (here: Eric Valette) trying their hand at a genre overwhelmingly dominated by the Scotts, Bays and Bruckeimers of the world, and, for once, dropping the European predilection for prolonged, intimate and dialogic efforts in order to privilege the grand cinematic spectacle: the occasional light fare that’s fun, sensational and yes, forgettable.
Without the fiercely magnetic Albert Dupontel (as well as the regrettably underused Sergi Lopez), who channels something of De Niro circa Cape Fear via Harrison Ford’s Richard Kimble, the film’s heavyhanded screenplay – owing much to Roy Huggins and not quite getting away with clumsy cinematographic tributes to Hitchcock – is worth hardly more than one of the more impressive Sunday night telefilms. Regardless, the skillfully shot chase sequences and the ferocious fight scenes definitely pop on a wide screen and earn the film its spot in theatres. Worth noting: Stéphane Debac and Natacha Régnier both escape the caricatural pitfalls of their characters and deliver villainous performances with bone-chilling credibility. By comparison, Taglioni, Hazanavicius and Soualem trapped in the cop-genre’s clichés (and feebly tackling unnecessary gender issues) are simply insubstantial.
Cédric Klapisch’s film Ma Part du gateau aims to please no one, least of all his fans. Not only is it dark in its subject but it is malicious in its treatment. Those expecting his trademark nostalgic ensemble piece will be disappointed. Others expecting some kind of social commentary and political alignment à la Ken Loach will exit altogether baffled by what he meant exactly and wondering whose side he’s really on. Those of us simply expecting a story will be misled, tricked even and left befuddled. And it works brilliantly. Nostalgia and optimism are done in at the start of the film, with the emblematically named France’s (an astonishing Karin Viard) attempted suicide, and the cameleonic Steve’s (Gilles Lellouche who’d failed to impress me until now, finally delivers a performance to be reckoned with) borderline date rape of a pure, innocent beauty.
[spoiler warning] Klapisch delivers here a fable without a moral lesson. It is a cynical observation of two social systems that, as society would have it, are never meant to meet. Two identities who have lost their selves entirely in their respective systems and have no notion of what they’re up against. Their collision makes obvious the delusion we still entertain in thinking that some love story can come out of their encounter : that there are good guys and bad guys, and that the good will improve the bad and that, really, the bad are not so bad after all. The fact is yes, the bad are unredeemable and well… the good aren’t really all that good either.
If anything, the film tells of a country personnified by two equally self-dispossessed personnalities (whereas France’s name is subsumed in the collectif, Stéphane, alias Steve, has sold out the true origin of his name to the highest – in this case English – bidder) who flirt with a delusion of entente, with a fantasy that perhaps these two selves may in fact reconstitute themselves outside the systems that dictate the roles they play, but ultimately remain fundamentally consumed by irreconciliable antagonisms. France’s criminal act in the film’s final chapter may arguably have been executed for the sake of social justice, however, it seemed to me that, in truth, she acted in bitter response to reality crashing through her fantasy.
The story subverts all rules of storytelling. Its tone and direction shift unsettlingly, and the tale goes from bad, to seemingly better, to far, far worse. By the end of the narrative journey, the characters have regressed to caricatures of themselves and the story collapses on itself with a dog eat dog finale, an open-ended climactic sequence that echoes the sinister opening act. France, frame-frozen in enigmatic laughter, appears more unstable than ever. Yet there is something of the comic fool inhabiting her now, and her laugh testifies to some lucid realization about the social hungers that devour us all equally, and has the annihilating force to level everyone, the powerful and the exploited, to the same elemental nature.
This is Klapisch’s sombrest film and most misanthropic and no, no one is spared and no one can be rescued : TRAILER