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Star - Romain Duris
Genre - Drama
County - France
Certificate - 15
Run Time - 144 minutes
Blockbusters - £0.99 per night
Amazon - £5.09p DVD
For a bit of fun the Huffington Post has done some spoof Oscar posters to represent this year's Best Picture nominees, entitled 'Honest Titles'. We know The Academy are pretty formulaic in their selections and the 5000 members plus normally copy the Globe nominations for an easy life, selections made by just 90 heavily lobbied movie people on behalf of The Golden Globes. For Les Miserable's they have pasted on 'Crying and Fighting: The Musical'and for the Life of Pi the 'Life of CGI'. For Lincoln it's 'Daniel Day Lewis going for the Oscar' and for the low budget quirky indie 'Beast of the Southern Wilds' they have put 'Should Win but Won't'. But for Amour, the only foreign film in the Best Picture nomination, they have entitled it 'FRENCH', in those bold shouting capitals, even though it's Austrian, the point being its wordy, intense and the protagonist have a strong cigarette in one hand and cognac in the other, infidelity and an oppressive piano soundtrack also perfunctory. I wouldn't say this particular French movie in The Big Picture would trouble The Oscars but it certainly fore fills the other criteria. Out friends across the Channel are rather insular in their film making.
Romain Duris ... Paul Exben
Marina Foïs ... Sarah Exben
Niels Arestrup ... Bartholomé
Branka Katic ... Ivana
Catherine Deneuve ... Anne
Eric Ruf ... Grégoire Kremer
Enzo Caçote ... Hugo Exben
Handsome city slicker Paul (Romain Duris) seems to have it all. He is adorned with the beautiful wife, Sarah (Marina Foïs), and two gorgeous kids, all neatly packed into his life and a big spacious town house in the nicest part of Paris, reward for his well paid job for a big Paris law firm. He is doing so well that the senior partner of the firm (played by the still beautiful Catherine Deneuve) wants to offer him her position as top dog as she is retiring with ill health. But he's not the talented photographer and idealist anymore that Sarah, the then writer, fell in love with and so the wife is cheating on him to get that buzz back with another artistic and idealistic guy, neighbor Grégoire (Eric Ruff), who didn't take the corporate lifestyle route and scraping a living as a photographer, the slacker she presumably wanted Paul to be.
Sarah, like many career women before her, has convinced herself that Paul made her play happy families and so give up her writing dreams so he could continue his career and so envious of his success, keen to put him down at dinner parties after a few glasses of fine wine. She doesn't want to contemplate he gave up his dream to take care of the women he loves. I suspect one or two of you reading this have suffered that contradiction and so animosity.
Paul, after discovering the stolen sexual liaisons, confronts Grégoire at his house - and accidentally kills him in a fit of rage, meaning he not only has to cover up the crime but persuade his wife that Greg has gone away on a photography trip in exotic lands by pretending to be him through Greg's emails, Sarah none the wiser of the discovery of the affair and so the fatal confrontation. But Paul fears he will eventually be caught as the paranoia runs out of control and so decides to fake his own death and start a new life as the photographer he, and Sarah, always wanted him to be, the old Yugoslavia his chosen hideout.
After selling some of his photos to a local Serbian newspaper to make a living on his terms after befriending an old man in the village that just so happened to be the editor of the said newspaper, the publication want to him to exhibit his work, not really the type of publicity you should be attracting when you have just faked your own death.
Although absurd situations, convenient plot mechanisms and highly unlikely scenarios all the way through to keep it racing along, Duris stumbling in those plot holes on the run, this has just enough tension and emotion to make it worth sitting through for the full two hours of subtitles, Romain Duris impressive lead performance as the paranoid man always looking over his shoulder with his head tucked into his coat collar the clincher. You are as tense and paranoid as he throughout as he buries himself deeper and deeper into his new life and identity until he can't see the light at the top of the well. Ok, the integrity of the narrative doesn't have much room for modern technology like CCTV and the internet to catch him out, and the idea that doing a high profile photographic exhibition with the press around might ever be a good idea as far a staying below the radar goes is silly. In fact I groaned when he did that, the ending as equally unsatisfactory. But maybe the point here is he hasn't quite lost his ego from the sparkling legal career and wants that respect and authority back through being recognized for his pictures, come what may, his vanity getting the better of him and a risk taker at heart.
What this film is about to me is the role of the modern day man in an increasingly female world. The invention - and intervention - of computers and their keyboards in a mans world meant women could now do most jobs and so men increasingly devalued. When they eventually don't need our sperm will they even bother with us? No, women are becoming increasingly intelligent and educated and so having fewer babies and more careers. It's as simple as that. If women weren't born slightly dumber and subservient to men then do you really think they would go through childbirth in the numbers they do?
In a way Romain Duris character is regressing into that female role as he finally gets to flee his career and so responsibility, be it an accelerated catharcism by killing his best mate. I read somewhere that something like 7o% of all female graduates give up their careers by their 4oth birthday to surrender to the routine of kids and marriage as their biological clock ticks loud enough to keep them awake at night. Women are meant to have babies and men to lose all their hair paying for them. That's the rules of evolution and we have to play by them to keep the human race going. That's why women earn 17% less for the same job as men. Men want to scream at feminist that there feeling son that is women should have the right to do as they please but don't blame the women for not wanting it all.
There's was a cracking theory played out in a must read book called 'Freakonomics' (a frivolous book the fun science of blending hardcore economic facts and quirky life style traits) which theorized that the main reason there are so few women in the boardroom is because they are attracted to, and marry men, they don't feel inferior to, which are often the very men in the higher managerial positions they are chasing, meaning those highly capable and skilled women leave their careers and have kids and the guys get and keep those jobs. As far as I'm concerned that it is a theorem (proven theory) to me and makes a lot of sense and could be applied to any work place. Women never marry men that are shorter than them, earn more money than them and live with their mother, a clear concession that they want men to wear the shoes and take control of their lives, a concession our female character in the film refuses to accept. She wanted the high earner husband and safe lifestyle and then cheats on him out of disgust for not being the man he was and she loved, the man she would probably dump for the high earner that offers her security and the safe place to have kids. Women are bonkers.
Anyhow, I digress and the question is should you give The Big picture the time of day, however crazy the premise is. I know the film was adapted from an American book and so that could explain the dumb narrative in parts, still hard to contemplate a lawyer couldn't cover up the death and carry on as normal and the needy wife wouldn't come running back to him and the money. Saying that I liked Romain Duris all the way through and you are never really sure where the film is going to go by the end and so both components keep your interest. Will it be the classic redemption picture where he ends up dead for his crime of passion or will he start that new life and be forgotten? Whatever does happen is for you guys to find out and if you want to enjoy a serious French movie that's refreshingly not too talky and posturing then this, maybe, is for you. The better films to see on the same themes would be fellow French movie 'Tell No One', or 'The Secret in Their Eyes', from Argentina, all three worth your time.
See what Kermode & Mayo think of it.
Imdb.com - 6.6/10.0 (1,395votes)
Metacritc.com - 71% critic's approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - % critic's approval rating
Daily Telegraph -'A word of advice to anyone who kills his wife's lover, fakes his own death, assumes the dead guy's name, and flees to a seaside Balkan town: leave the camera at home'.
Boston Globe -'Duris is excellent, his hair and eyes growing wilder with each step of the journey, and he has solid support ... '
The Guardian -'The direction from Eric Lartigau keeps things moving along fast and furious: preposterous it may be, the movie is carried off with some style'.
Film4 - 'The Big Picture has an inevitable 'je ne sais quoi'; though this never quite smoothes over the cracks in its plotting or saggy pacing as an identity thriller'.
The Mail on Sunday -'"The Big Picture" ends perhaps a bit too ambiguously, but there's something refreshing about its faith in the moviegoer's intelligence'.
The New Yorker - 'If some of the plot details defy credibility, Romain Duris's electrifying' performance makes you overlook any inconsistencies
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