They’re out to get me
THE SERPENT/LE SERPENT Directed by Eric Barbier. Starring Yvan Attal, Clovis Cornillac, Pierre Richard, Simon Abkarian 16 cert, Cineworld/Screen, Dublin, 119 min TOO many of the French films that make it to Irish cinemas these days seem to concern bourgeois dinner parties, during which people wonder what, exactly, Daniel Auteuil is up to. It is, thus, gratifying to get a gawp at a decent piece of genre film-making from across La Manche.
The Serpent, which is based on an obscure book by Get Carter author Ted Lewis, is of that class of thriller in which an ordinary middle-class man is dragged from complacency to desperation after the arrival of some brutish figure from his past. Yvan Attal plays a fashion photographer who, as the action begins, is in the process of breaking up with his sleek wife. The custody battle for the children turns in her favour when the hero is accused of raping a photographic model.
Later, the young woman turns up dead in the boot of the unfortunate man’s car and he begins to suspect that somebody is acting out an ancient vendetta against him. He’s right. A square-faced private detective, played with unsettling intensity by Clovis Cornillac, has made it his business to destroy the snapper’s cosy life.
There are far too many handy coincidences and obscure motivations in this tense, violent film, but Jerome Robert’s dusky photography and the strong, contrasting central performances combine to create a pleasingly disconcerting atmosphere throughout.
The French can, still, do this sort of mainstream picture every bit as well as the Americans. Though it’s always nice to see, say, Michael Douglas get the sort of beating Attal receives here, let’s hope neither he, nor any of his pals, is contemplating a remake. DONALD CLARKE