Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 7:33 am 
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Rewarding terribleness

Maïwenn Le Besco, actress and now director, is remembered for helming the 2011 Polisse, about the Paris Juvenile Protection Squad, a film well publicized in France; it was strikingly advertised on Paris' beautiful Colonnes Morris at the time with images of children's faces superimposed on adult bodies (see my review). It garnered some good reviews despite some overacting by improvising non-actors. Maïwenn clearly likes unending successions of in-your-face scenes. Mon roi ("My King") is almost nothing but explosive, pointless sequences full of overacting, this time by professional actors, mainly Vincent Cassel and Emmanuelle Bercot, and the latter, who also directed the Cannes gala opening night movie Standing Tall, got the Cannes Best Actress prize this year for her work with Cassel, which consists of nothing but exaggerated, turned-on-for-the-scene emotions: laughter, tears, screaming. It's an example of how juries (and people) can confuse effusions of fake emotion with fine acting. (This mistake was offset fortunately by the much-deserved Best Actor prize to Vincent Lindon for his heartfelt, lived-in performance in Brizé's La loi du marché.)

Mon roi is about a couple, Tony (Bercot), who's supposed to be a French trial lawyer (though one can't imagine this ditsy, hysterical female she's playing in such a profession) and Giorgio (Cassel), who's supposed to be a rich successful chef and restaurant entrepreneur, though again, professional context is quite missing. The only time we see him using a kitchen is to have sex with Tony, noisily banging around pots and pans. And his success turns out to be hollow when we find out he is an alcoholic and drug addict with big debts. The hysterical rolls in the hay did not reveal such practical details to Tony.

This film, a long recollection of a bad relationship framed by Tony's recuperation from a bad skiing accident, is based on the unhealthy notion that sexy guys are assholes, or, conversely, that only assholes are sexy. Nice guys just aren't, according to such thinking. True, Vincent Cassel, with his smooth, muscular body topped by a gnarly demonic face, oozes dangerous, narcissistic male sexuality, and he knows how to play an asshole. After their first sex she suggests he may be one, and he boldly replies that he's not, because he's the king of assholes. In his Guardian Cannes review Peter Bradshaw, who gave this a devastating one out of five stars, called Mon roi "an unendurable confection of complacent and self-admiring nonsense: shallow, narcissistic, histrionic and fake". His review convincingly backs up these claims. I couldn't put it any better. The words apply both to Vincent Cassel's character and the film as a whole.

There is nothing wrong with a protagonist who's an asshole. It's a perfectly good idea. The trouble is that indeed, as Bradshaw implies, Giorgio's continual misbehavior is presented as if it is cool, or something you just need to put up with if you want to enjoy the excitement of being involved with a really sexy guy. Giorgio never gets his comeuppance. When he and Tony get divorced it's a lark; they immediately have hot sex. Having a kid seems like a game for him, and, cooperatively, for her. It's borderline disgusting how marriage, child rearing and other such important activities are all treated as as larks, or opportunities for thespian grandstanding.

I don't share Bradshaw's (and others') opinion that Louis Garrel, who plays Tony's brother, is an "egregious smoulderer" (whatever that may mean), but I'd agree that it's not reassuring to realize he's the most sensible, normal character in this movie. It is also true that even Tony's odd place of recovery from the ski accident, an apparent spa for sporty, goodloooking young people with broken legs, provides the same kind of explosive, fake entourage sequences that are featured in all the flashbacks, where we see Giorgio's pals chuckle and cheer as he does stupid, annoying, narcissistic things. And so really does Tony -- cheer him on and do such things herself. They are two of a kind, so it makes sense that it takes her forever to get over him. But we're done with him after the first fifteen minutes. And alas we have seen such outpourings of mucous and tears and straining of the vocal cords celebrated as a fine performance before. The partial success of this bad movie is a cautionary tale. Avoid.

Mon roi, 127 mins., debuted at Cannes in competition, and was released in France 21 Oct. 2015. French critical rating paltry (AlloCiné press 3.2). US theatrical release 12 Aug. 2016 Lincoln Plaza Cinemas NYC, 29 Aug. Laemmle Royal, Los Angeles.

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