Saturday, 23 January 2010

Mon Idole (2002)

CineMoi is still managing to schedule a fascinating assortment of films many of which I almost certainly would never have sought out without their guidance. Granted I have previously seen quite a few of their scheduled movies -- after all there haven't been THAT many French films produced since the year dot and many of their choices are relatively recent releases -- but there are still films like the above one which I knew not and which are contibuting to my cinematic education.

The film is co-written, directed by, and stars Guillaume Canet, an actor who has never particularly registered with me. While the literal translation of the title is 'My Idol', it was also known on the festival circuit as 'Whatever You Say' and it is a pretty scathing indictment of modern morals, particularly as they relate to the television industry. Canet plays Bastien, an overworked and underappreciated assistant to TV presenter Philippe Lefebvre (the film's co-writer.) He resents his boss' pinching his ideas for new programming and passing them off as his own -- and I should add parenthetically here that all of the TV programmes being aired by this duo are in exquisitely bad taste. He therefore tries to cosy up to the network's powerful producer Jean-Louis, an incredibly evil turn by actor Francois Berleand -- a familiar face to me if not a familiar name and nominated for a Cesar for this role. Looking to further his career and to land his own programme, he agrees to spend the weekend at Jean-Louis' country estate, estranging himself from his steady girlfriend in the process. Little does he realise that he is only wanted as a bit of distracting entertainment for the producer and his much younger wife, an early role for Diane Kruger before her "Gladiator" rise to fame (and Canet's wife at the time).

Despite succumbing to Kruger's sexual needs, he proves to be a dismal failure as the weekend's amusement and finds himself being instructed to feed Jean-Louis' pet vultures (!), helping him to dispose of a stag that has crashed into his car, alienating the already harrassed cook-cum-housekeeper, getting lost in the woods during a suggested jog, and totally failing to get into the spirit of things in the bunny-suit that he is forced to don, as Berleand, Kruger, and Lefebvre cavort as grown-up kiddies and a kangaroo. When this ends in an apparent accidental homicide it looks as if he too might end up in a common grave as part of the other-worldly and immoral couple's cover-up. Making an escape and returning to the television studio, he thinks he has learned the secrets of getting ahead from the condescending, cynical, and casually cruel Jean-Louis and that he has the correct blackmailing evidence to further his career. However, the producer has the last laugh in the movie's totally unexpected and vaguely 'magic realism' ending.

What struck me most forcefully while watching the proceedings, apart from the realisation that they were at heart totally black and that none of the characters were particularly likeable, was the feeling that this movie could never have been foisted on the public by either an American or British production company. Not that there was anything distinctively French about the storyline, but there was a definite foreignness to the evolving action that left me feeling like a cultural voyeur as Canet's dreams of fortune and fame came to nought.

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