Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 11:36 pm 
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Crazy, funny fluff (something the French do surprisingly well)

This first film of Laurent Tirard, "Lies and Betrayals", which opened September 8 in Paris, stars Edouard Baer, who combines cuddly vagueness with sex appeal in a way that drives women wild. Four nights after the movie's September 8 Paris opening the messy-coifed Baer was on the show "On ne peut pas plaire à tout le monde" ("You can't please everybody") with another member of the cast, but not the charming Marie-Josée Crose (Muriel in the movie) or the blonde Alice Taglioni (Claire), or the funny, gifted Clovis Cornillac (Kevin, the football star who's the movie's premise). Cornillac could be the next Gérard Depardieu. Already with many credits but few seen in the US, Cornillac looks like a hunkier, more dangerous version of Leonardo DiCaprio and seems capable of playing any sort of role that's thrown at him.

In Mensonges, Raphael (Baer) is a "Negro," a slave of the publishing industry who has a string of successful books to his credit but gets no credit for them because they're all "as told to" memoirs he's ghosted for famous people. He gets assigned to the captain of the top French football team and discovers this guy's main squeeze, the alpha bitch goddess Claire, is none other than his own first love from his college days. Tirard, who's done some short films, studied in the US, wrote for Studio Magazine for seven years and is frankly a student of Hollywood where he was a script reader for Warner Bros. In Raphael he's thinking of an Anglo-Saxon comic type like Hugh Grant or Edward Norton, but the role was written for Baer and fleshed out by Baer's improvisations. The voiceover was inspired by Fight Club.

Kevin, the football toff, is the drole and original creation of Clovis Cornillac. He's powerful and crude, yet elegant. He's self-absorbed, and he's hilariously odd. He wants the book about himself to be written in the style of his favorite writer -- Baudelaire! And he's made up some verses to start it off. This first meeting between Kevin and Raphael is one of many hilarious setups Tirard stages in the film.

It's not till Raphael, who's fed up with his current girlfriend, comes across a big magazine spread on Kevin that he discovers the old flame's in the picture. Flashbacks show the misadventures that led her to drop him in the first place. On the first date he crashed the car into an enormous wild boar, which then got stuck inside the car. Five gendarmes are required to neutralize the beast using pistols with a barrage of shots like the slaughter at the end of Bonnie and Clyde (you had to be there).

Mensonges et trahisons is out for laughs and it gets them. It's the kind of movie that it's a sin to take too seriously. Tirard was brilliant in his casting. We need to see more of Croze, Baer is already a hit with the ladies, and Cornillac is hot now and will be seen shortly in the US in A Very Long Engagement (Un long dimanche de fiançailles) with Audrey Tautou of Amélie. He gets to show off his brooding, brutish side in the also current La femme de Gilles of Frédéric Fonteyne, a grim, economical tale of small town adultery in the Thirties.

Marie-Josée Crose, who embues the part of Raphael's current girlfriend with so much soulfulness, recently won the top acting prize in Canada for her powerful turn as a junkie in last year's The Barbarian Invasions (Les invasions barbares).

There is something of Woody Allen in Edouard Baer except that he looks good with his shirt off. Big difference.

This is a movie that will play well in the US and one can imagine Hollywood doing a knockoff.

Screened for this review in Paris September, 2004.

©Chris Knipp. 2004

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