Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Big Picture (Rhoades)

“The Big Picture” Shows
Psychological Thriller

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

What if you suspected your wife was having an affair? What if you noticed the way she exchanges glances with your friend, an out-of-work National Geographic photographer? What if you thought it was telling the way he brushes his fingers along her back at a party?
Would you kill him?
And if you did, would you arrange to disappear – just vanish from a drifting sailboat?
And how would you handle it, if in Yugoslavia a new acquaintance keeps asking about your past, complaining that you reveal nothing of yourself?
Those are questions faced by Paul Exben, a partner in a French law firm, a man with a beautiful wife, two cherub-like sons, and a perfect existence. But is he willing to swap that life for a dead man’s identity?
Romain Duras (you’ll remember him from that charming Gallic comedy, “Heartbreaker”) carries the story as Paul. An accidental actor, he was discovered waiting in front of a high school in Paris by director Cédric Klapisch in the mid ‘90s.
Based on a 1997 Douglas Kennedy novel, director Eric Lartigau has given Duras a fascinating, albeit sometimes farfetched, framework for a mesmerizing performance.  
“The Big Picture” – not to be confused with the 1989 Kevin Bacon comedy – is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema. Its French title was “L’homme qui voulait vivre sa vie.”
That translates as “The man who wanted to live his life,” somewhat ironic in that Paul assumes someone else’s life.
The film has been called “a vagrant, fitful mixture of domestic drama, existential thriller in the vein of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series, and evocation of the underbelly of new Europe.”
True enough. In a way, “The Big Picture” seems like more than one film, the vignettes in Paul Exben’s life strung together. But taken together, they give us the big picture.

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