Le Bossu

Daniel Auteuil and Marie Gillain in Le Bossu

 

 

 

Daniel Auteuil, Jean Reno, Gerard Depardieu. Where are the barrel-chested Brit equivalents to these beefy action men of the French cinema? But then, Brits are all gay, aren’t we? Take this fine, roistering spectacle, a dashingly charming entertainment in which Auteuil plays a D’Artagnan-like figure, all flashing swords and teeth. The story has been made into a film five times before, and is in the tradition of the Count of Monte Cristo – revenge is its beating heart – as it follows 18th century swordsman the Chevalier de Lagardère (Auteuil) through long patient years, disguise as a hunchback, political intrigue, love from an unexpected quarter, until he finally faces down the dastardly Gonzague (played by the brilliant boulevardier Fabrice Luchini), to avenge the death of his friend years before. It’s a bit of a sprawling rococo epic, with some nice contemporary touches thrown in – the surprisingly different attitudes of the able-bodied towards the hunchback (Bossu) of the title, for instance. Plus there’s sex – this is a French film – and some of the finest swordplay since Errol Flynn finally sheathed his weapon. Swashbucklers might not be fashionable and Auteuil might not be the first person you’d call if casting one, but the French take them seriously and in the stylish hands of seasoned director Philippe de Broca such objections can easily be swatted aside.

© Steve Morrissey 1998

 

Le Bossu (aka On Guard) – at Amazon 

 

 

 

 

Hidden aka Caché

 

 

Everyone loves a form/content double whammy, when a film’s story and its method of telling correspond. It’s why Memento succeeds so well, for example, a tale about an amnesiac told in partial and unreliable flashback. How much craftier is Michael Haneke’s psychological thriller Hidden. Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Juliette Binoche) are media professionals, members of the Parisian chattering classes, liberal right down in their DNA. What could people of such good intent have to do with the rising tide of Islamism, anti-westernism, terrorism? Why are they being blackmailed by an increasingly incriminating series of videotapes? Are they guilty of something, or innocent, as the film seems to proclaim? Haneke’s double whammy is to tell this story both from the point of view of the spooked couple and through the replaying of the videotapes they’ve been sent. Indeed we’re often not sure which point of view we’re seeing events from – is it the dispassionate camera telling us the story from Georges and Anne’s point of view, or is it the politicised camera within the film, the one shooting the videotapes? And it’s on this nub that this brilliant film turns. You could see it as a comment on fictionalised reality, though it is only tangentially that. Or as a more political film which, through Haneke’s dislocating device, dissolves the certainties of fiction and invites the question – are we, Western audiences, no matter how liberal, anti-war, pro-diversity, because we benefit from them, complicit in political actions taken in our name?

© Steve Morrissey 2007

 

Hidden – at Amazon