A sec­ond shot at life

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

PE­DRO ALMOD­Ó­VAR’S Live Flesh. Guil­laume Canet’s Tell No One. Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil. It’s im­pos­si­ble to say why ex­actly, but Euro­pean film-mak­ers have a flair for An­glo­phone crime fic­tion that na­tive speak­ers find hard to match. (An­thony Minghella’s hor­ri­bly di­luted The Tal­ented Mr Ri­p­ley, any­one?) US crim­i­nals just act out; their con­ti­nen­tal equiv­a­lents act out, but only af­ter din­ner, wine and

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light philosophis­ing.

Eric Lar­ti­gau’s L’Homme qui voulait vivre sa vie – re-ti­tled The Big Pic­ture in this ter­ri­tory and based on a novel by Trin­ity grad­u­ate Dou­glas Kennedy – makes a fine ad­di­tion to this thrilling sub­genre.

Less of a kiss-kiss-bang-bang crime flick than a study of dis­lo­ca­tion, dis­guise, and dou­bles, this su­pe­rior French of­fer­ing fol­lows Parisian lawyer Paul (Duris) on an ac­ci­den­tal de­tour into homi­cide. As the film opens, Paul lives with his pic­ture-per­fect chil­dren and a dour, dis­sat­is­fied wife in salu­bri­ous sub­urbs; he even has a classy run­ning ma­chine, the moviev­erse’s cur­rent favourite trope for herald­ing in­com­ing ex­is­ten­tial angst.

Back in the city, his part­ner in a high-end law firm (Deneuve) is just about to hand over her shares gratis, mak­ing Paul even richer. Un­hap­pily, this an­nounce­ment comes just as our hero ac­ci­den­tally kills his wife’s lover.

Re­al­is­ing that the po­lice are un­likely to un­der­stand, Paul dumps the body, fakes his own death and, with a nod to An­to­nioni’s The Pas­sen­ger, as­sumes the vic­tim’s iden­tity. But will the plan un­ravel when he fakes his way through a Mon­tene­gran pho­tog­ra­phy as­sign­ment?

Beau­ti­fully shot and bol­stered by Duris’ tremen­dous cen­tral turn, The Big Pic­ture works its premise into a com­plex psy­cho­log­i­cal por­trait. Play­ful im­ages of cracked mir­rors and du­pli­cates abound. Even the pro­tag­o­nist, who al­ways wanted to be a pho­tog­ra­pher, is only a fac­sim­ile. Soon enough, he’s re­call­ing de­tails from his old life in the third per­son and e-mail­ing from his vic­tim’s ac­count.

Can the de­cep­tion last? Pos­si­bly not, but it’s cer­tainly fun find­ing out.

irish­times.com/cul­ture

Shut­ter­bug: Ro­main Duris re­ally en­joyed play­ing Sec­ond Life

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