A second shot at life
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
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.
Shutterbug: Romain Duris really enjoyed playing Second Life