Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Big Picture (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Big Picture

Voila! At last, here is a film reminiscent of Rene Clement's "Plein Soleil" (Purple Noon). Clement's film was based on Patricia Highsmith's masterfully detached novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. In Clement's narrative , we saw a smooth and dashing sociopath, Tom Ripley, driven by ego and loathing to achieve an elitist lifestyle. Tom was played by the inimitable Alain Delon and in this latest outing, we have something of Delon here.

Eric Lartigau's "The Big Picture" stars Romain Duris as Paul Exben, a scruffy postmodern yuppie, a defeated photographer who is now a partner in a law film. He wakes every morning in a haze, his toddler wailing incessantly. At the breakfast table his wife is abstract and distant. Paul becomes obsessed with the idea of his wife's possible infidelity, all the while being mocked in his past artistic pursuits. At the mall, Paul meets a self assured and confident acquaintance Gregoire Kremer (Eric Ruf). Paul is eaten up by Kremer's easy nonchalance. During a party, he happens to see Kremer touching his wife's bottom.

Then he knows.

Paul is not a complete snowman like Ripley, ( Tom murders without a blink)  but the two characters share a kindred pathological bent. "The Big Picture" is less about a bloody crime and more about forgery, guilt, and the process of becoming someone else. The forgery of a life is not a final, punishable plight but a spring to artistic fruition. Yet where, Tom is as smooth as ice, Paul is wretched and scruffy, sweating in screams, horrified to leave his children. Both "The Big Picture" and "Purple Noon" portray two characters who stop at nothing to attain status (albeit with different goals) when the earth spins on with an unfailing neutrality.

Romain Duris is full of sneering ridicule at one moment only to be prostrate with suffering the next, but as an actor he makes both conditions thrilling. Duris puts a wonderful dark silhouette upon Alain Delon's iconic role. The thrill is not whether Paul will get away with his crime, but rather how far he will go. And it is not the natural world, but the randomness of chance that propels Paul forward. As luck would have it, a single blue duffle bag can either be an impartial sack or a midnight flag of sin and danger.

Catherine Deneuve gives a nice turn here as Paul's associate, as does the recognizable Niels Arestrup (Sarah's Key) who plays a maudlin but suspicious-seeming photographer who may or may not know more than he lets on.

Throughout the film, Paul endures one apprehensive shock after the other with the stark shadows of sea and sun moving ahead of, or beyond consequence. Paul is not very likeable but  neither is anyone else and perversely, his pathos along with his offhand manner is infectious. You just might end up rooting for this intense sociopath with the laughing eyes. Paul clearly is as surprised as anyone else by his predicament and both fortune and demise are given equal measure.

Write Ian at redtv_2005@yahoo.com

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