Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2016 6:21 pm 
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Complicated caper

Pretty-boy actor Niels Schneider, used as decoration in Xavier Dolan's I Killed My Mother and Heartbeats and as a spoiled aristocrat in Gemma Bovary, has his curly mop combed straight back and acquires a slightly seedy look for his troubled, introspective role in Arthur Harari's debut feature about a young man with a dark scheme. His character, Pier Ullmann, is from a family of diamond cutters in Antwerp. But his father was cast from grace and misused by the family. Estranged from his father, PIer has been engaged in devious business. When his father dies, he goes back to his uncles and cousins in the business in Antwerp with revenge in mind. He's taken on by his uncle Gabi (August Diehl) as a mere hired man to do some office remodeling. Though he arrives as a black sheep, Pier becomes more and more indispensable, which suits him fine -- but the new possibilities his acceptance bring complicate his revenge plans. He is becoming more and more a cherished member of the family he wants to hate. This is a thriller with lots of surprises, and a depth of character development one doesn't expect in the genre. And Harari's well-written film likewise provides a rich local texture that's perfectly integral to the plot, delving into the current status of the diamond market, even into the history of Antwerp, the Belgian port city whose role in that business has long been central. If some developments are a little implausible, we're happy to accept them for the cunning twists they make possible in the final reels.

As Pier, Schneider convincingly portrays a young man both able and troubled, motivated by the conflicting aims of revenge and proving himself. He undergoes a transformation -- or is it nature coming out? -- when he gains the confidence of the Ulmanns' chief diamond cutter, Rick de Vries (Jos Verbist). Pier must deal not only with Gabi, who reveals an unexpected vulnerability, but the company's stern head, Joseph (German actor and director Hans-Peter Cloos), and his cousin Louisa (Raphaële Godin), a kick-boxing doctoral candidate in chemistry, who becomes dangerously fascinating to him.

Gabi and Joseph have conflicting notions of how the business should be conceived and conducted. Should diamonds be considered unique, magnificent works of art, or something to be mass produced for a wide global market? As the Ulmanns' small, distinguished firm risks falling behind, Gabi considers linking up with an Indian mass producer of the Jain faith, Vijay Sha Gopal (Vijay Sha Gopal). In the background lurk Pier's dubious allies Raschid (the late Hafed Benotman) and Kevin (Guillaume Verdier), waiting at the end of the phone line in France to be called into a Rififi-like operation that's expected to be a slightly larger variation on capers we've seen the trio pull off early in the action. But as Pier settles into his role with the family in Antwerp, things keep changing in this very ingenious and nicely constructed film.

Niels Schneider is from Paris, but spent 17 years in Montreal, where he was eventually taken up by Xavier Dolan. Coming back to Paris five years ago, things heated up for him as an actor, and he has had a lot of roles in theater (Romeo, opposite Ana Girardot), TV and film. This is a good one. It looks like there may be much to come showing he's not just a pretty face. He has six films pending, including this one.

Dark Inclusion/Diamont Noir, 115 mins., has not yet been released in France. IMDb lists its French theatrical release as 13 Apr. 2016, but AlloCiné says the date is 8 June. Screened as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York. Its presentation as part of the FSLC-UniFrance series Rendez-Vous with French Cinema is its U.S. Premiere, showing to the public Thurs. Mar. 10 at 1:30 p.m. and Sat. Mar. 12 at 9:15 p.m.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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