Second Wind

I suppose saying “I like French cinema” is a bit vague, a bit like saying “I like red wine”.  OK, so let’s narrow it down.  I like French films.  I especially like the ones which feature Daniel Auteuil.  Now here I must be mindful of a recent post over at Tim’s place and ask Small Boo if it’s all right if we share?

On Friday I went to see Le Deuxième Souffle.  It’s a remake of a 1966 film of the same name (I don’t know the earlier film or the novel on which it’s based; I don’t know much about French cinema but I  know what I like).  Set in the late fifties, the main business of the film concerns a gangster, Gustave “Gu” Minda (Auteuil), newly broken out of jail and intending to flee the country with his lover.  The only problem is money – he needs to do one more job and then he’ll be set.  Conveniently, a job presents itself, a bullion heist.  The job passes off smoothly and all looks well.  But he has reckoned without the new police chief, a man with a dry wit and an instinctive understanding of the criminal mind who, having tricked Gu into incriminating himself, sets about destroying his reputation with the rest of the gang.  In true “honour among thieves” style, Gu must “clear” his name before he and his lover can begin their new life together.

As plots go it isn’t terribly original but the film is so beautifully played that it hardly matters.  This is a piece of cinema with style.  The performances of the principal characters are subtle and nuanced, the world they create convinces.  This is particularly true of Auteuil (OK, you knew I was going to say that, but it’s true).  His gangster is violent (the film is extremely bloody) but he is also a meticulous man, his attention to detail, in both his “professional” and personal lives, is impressive.  The “lovable crook” is a worn old cliché and, as you would expect, Auteuil steers well clear.  This is a man who, while despicable, exudes charm and fascinates those around him.  Even his sworn enemy, Blot (Michel Blanc) has a sort of grudging respect for him.  An early scene  stands as a perfect metaphor for the entire film.  Shortly after arriving back in Paris after his jailbreak, Gu is taken to a safe house.  His lover, nightclub owner Manouche (Monica Bellucci) has sent food and wine for them to share later.  As their mutual friend and colleague, Alban (Eric Cantona) sets out the meal, you realise that these are no emergency rations.  A table is set with linen and china.  A bottle of champagne.  The attention to detail is evident.  Bread and cheese are elevated to celebratory status and so it is with the rest of the film which, thanks to magnificent performances from Blanc, Bellucci and especially Auteuil, is so much more than the sum of it’s parts.

I really enjoyed it.

P.S.  This may just be the most pretentious thing I’ve ever written.

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13 Responses to Second Wind

  1. wyndham says:

    Try and see Tell No One, Marsha, a brilliant French thriller starring that well-known French actress Kristin Scott Thomas.

  2. marshaklein says:

    Tim: Eh? Please explain!

    Wyndham: I’ve seen “Tell No One”. It was, indeed, brilliant and Kristin Scott-Thomas was a revelation. Interesting that it was a French movie based on a American novel – so often the other way round. Also reassured me that my love for French film extends beyond my schoolgirl-like crush on M. Auteuil.

  3. ooh, i enjoyed ‘tell no-one’ too, although the husband and i had to keep pausing it now and again to check with each other what we thought was going on and what facts were newly established

    but maybe we are just a bit thick

    we watched ‘memento’ a few years ago and really enjoyed it, although i’m still not 100% sure what happened


    i managed to miss the whole french film festival but i did manage to see ‘the flight of the red balloon’ on sunday…it was good, but very little indeed happens (my taiwanese friend assured me that this is par for the course for this director)

    all of which reminds me: we should go to the flicks again soon! will email…

  4. marshaklein says:

    LH: I’ve heard that about ‘Memento’ – I think it’s a film you need to watch a few times before you get to the bottom of what’s going on.

    I would like to be Juliet Binoche when I grow up (ha!)

    Flicks again sounds good. Look forward to it!

  5. patroclus says:

    Ooh I’ve been meaning to see Tell No One for ages.

    If you watch Memento a second time you think you understand what’s happened, until you watch it a third time, and realise you actually have no clue what actually happened. I think perhaps there’s no real ‘truth’ to it, as is also the case with Hidden (another super-classy French thriller, with fabulous Parisian apartment interiors to boot).

    Hmm, I seem to be doing no work today.

  6. Marsha Klein says:

    Tell No One comes highly recommended, P.

    I know what you mean about Hidden. Near the beginning of the film Juliette Binoche serves dinner with the sort of effortless elegance that almost makes me weep. She also spends the entire film wearing what look like potato sacks and exuding effortless elegance…

    Boo hoo!

    P.S. I do very little work most days.

  7. Mangonel says:

    Harlan Coben’s yer man. He wrote Tell No One (which I haven’t seen). His plotting is among the best I’ve read.

  8. wyndham says:

    Coben’s plotting is absolutely first class – his prose and dialogue: not soooo great.

  9. patroclus says:

    I watched Tell No One last night and it was truly brilliant, so perhaps the screenplay compensated for Coben’s prose and dialogue.

    I did spend the entire film labouring under the misapprehension that the lead character was played by Guillaume Canet, and kept saying ‘blimey, he’s really changed since The Beach‘. Doh.

  10. marshaklein says:

    Mango/Wyndham: Now I don’t know whether to give Coben a shot or not…

    Patroclus: So glad it’s not just me who does that.

  11. patroclus says:

    I’m back again to say I was just watching Daniel Auteuil in 36 Quai des Orfevres and it was very good indeed.

  12. marshaklein says:

    It is good, isn’t it.

    I recently bought myself a bunch of Daniel Auteil’s films on DVD (mostly ones I hadn’t already seen). I haven’t had a chance to watch any of them yet, but Daisy has really enjoyed them in between “studying” for her Highers!

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