is a real mystery how French publishers stay in business, considering the ugly
covers they insist on designing for books. Pierre Blum’s latest title is as
drab as anything else on the shelves, but what’s inside is incendiary.
Technically, it was a ghost-writing job, but all of France’s insiders seem to
know it was his work. That most definitely has dangerous implications for the gloomy
former radical in Nicolas Pariser’s The
Great Game (trailer
here), which screens during the 2016 Rendezvous with French Cinema.
had one critically acclaimed novel before turning into a loser. He churned out
a few articles here and there before completely packing it in. However, he once
had close ties to a number a leftist radicals, which is why the sly old power
broker Joseph Paskin arranges to “accidentally” meet him one night. To
discredit the new, overly-ambitious Interior Minister, Paskin wants Blum to
write a revolutionary manifesto to be released under the name of a notorious
radical who was deported twenty years ago. He knows Blum is just the
disillusioned leftist to channel his old comrade’ voice.
Blum was never much of a believer. His activism was always more of a social
thing and he has become distinctly anti-social. Unfortunately, once the
ghost-written volume releases, Paskin’s rivals react with swift severity. Thugs
attack Blum at his ex-wife’s gallery and Paskin’s right-hand man is murdered in
a hit-and-run. With his shadowy patron in hiding, Blum takes refuge at the very
hippy-dippy commune he knows is due to be raided as part of the Minister’s show
of force against extremists.
The Great Game completely
represents French political preconceptions that consider the right to be
ruthlessly Machiavellian and the left to be infantile fools, which is totally
ridiculous, right? In any event, Pariser has at them both. Essentially, the
events that unfold are part of a covert civil war within the French
center-right, but there is no question Paskin the conservative fixer gone
off-the-reservation is the most fun to spend time with.
is all due to the wonderfully sinister élan of the great André Dussollier, who looks
like he is having a ball as the manipulative Paskin. When he is on-screen, the
film hums and zings. When Melvil Poupaud is brooding on his own as the
depressive Blum, not so much. It is even more awkward when he starts putting
the moves on Laura Haydon, the considerably younger anarchist vouching for him at
the commune. She is rather blandly played by Clémence Poésy, who co-starred in
the Harry Potter franchise, but is much more likely to be recognized for her
appearance in the Greek experimental short, The Capsule.
One of the delicious ironies of The Great Game is that it is the ethical
ambiguous Paskin who gets Blum to re-engage with life. Dussollier certainly is
a persuasive presence in the film, that’s for sure. Watching him scheme is
delightfully entertaining. Recommended for his charm and Pariser’s aptly
convoluted plot twists, The Great Game
screens this Friday (3/4) and Saturday (3/5) at the Walter Reade, as part of
this year’s Rendezvous with French Cinema.
Labels: Andre Dussollier, French Cinema, Rendezvous with French Cinema '16