French seem to have an affinity for the work of American novelist Douglas
Kennedy. Following the relatively recent
art house release for Polish filmmaker’s Pawel Pawlikowski’s stylish French
co-production of Woman in the Fifth,
American audiences now get a look at Eric Lartigau’s Francophied The Big Picture (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
Exben seems to have it all. Married with
two young children, he has a thriving private practice and a well equipped dark
room to enjoy his photography hobby.
However, cracks are appearing in the façade. Something is definitely not right with his
wife Sarah. All signs point towards an
affair with his neighbor, a professional photographer Exben already resents, as
a symbol of his own creative failure. When
Anne, his partner and de-facto mother-figure, reveals her terminal illness,
Exben’s stable existence is rocked again. However, it is a confrontation with
the cuckolding neighbor that truly throws Exben’s life upside-down.
Big Picture could be thought
of as a big twist film, but it takes two sudden game-changing turns, rather
than just springing one surprise gotcha down the stretch. For reasons that are well developed within
the film, Exben finds himself reinventing himself in Montenegro, under an
assumed identity. Indeed, Big Picture is all about questions of
identity, both self-perceived and as assumed by others. It is also a wickedly clever thriller.
nifty as twists and turns might be, Big
Picture is entirely dependent on Romain Duris to make it tick, but
fortunately, he knocks it out of the park as Exben. Duris creates a memorable portrait of a truly
complex noir protagonist. Somehow, we
can always understand his often rash decision making and never pass judgment. It is his movie, but he has some wickedly wry
support from French character actor Niels Arestrup as the boozy expatriate
newspaperman, Batholomé. Viewers will
appreciate the gleam in his eye as tucks into the tasty Montenegrin
scenery. Francophiles will also
appreciate Catherine Deneuve, who is also characteristically engaging in the less
showy role of Exben’s soon to be late partner.
ought to make Lee Daniels sit in the corner a watch Big Picture over and over.
Although Kennedy’s story, co-adapted by the director, takes viewers on a
far wilder ride, Lartigau’s
skillful execution sells it to all but the most annoyingly pedantic viewer. In contrast, the recent train-wreck of The Paperboy is considerably more
credible on paper, but not one second is remotely believable.
The rocky coastal landscape of Montenegro adds immeasurably
to the moody atmosphere, giving the film a truly distinctive character. One of the more successful films following in
the tradition of Hitchcock and Chabrol, it is tricky to discuss without
dropping spoilers, but very satisfying to watch unfold. Highly recommended for fans of moody,
literate thrillers, The Big Picture opens
this Friday (10/12) in New York at the IFC Center downtown and the Lincoln
Plaza Cinema uptown.
Labels: Douglas Kennedy, Film Noir, French Cinema, Niels Arestrup, Romain Duris