11.6

François Cluzet in 11.6

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

30 August

 

Warren Buffett born, 1930

On this day in 1930, the business magnate Warren Edward Buffett was born, in Omaha, Nebraska, the second of the three children of a father who was a US congressman and stockbroker.

At age 11 Warren bought his first shares. He filed his first tax return aged 14, on income earned from delivering newspapers and selling door to door. The following year he bought a pin table and installed it in a barber’s shop.

On leaving school in 1947, his report read – “likes math; a future stockbroker”. After graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln he went to Columbia Business School, where he came under the influence of Benjamin Graham, author of The Intelligent Investor, one of the key works in the “value investing” canon.

By the age of 26, having worked in various stockbroking companies, he had started his own partnership. By 2008, after careful buying of unsexy stocks, he was the richest man in the world.

 

 

 

11.6 (2013, dir: Philippe Godeau)

I’m a big fan of François Cluzet, who seems to be able to do comedy (see Untouchable aka Intouchables) as well as more muscular thriller fare, which is what he’s dabbling in here.

He plays the security guard who has worked for a company for ten years, is now one of the riders on an armoured truck that does bank runs. A safe pair of hands.

11.6 tells the true story of what happened when, after years of loyal service, this guy Toni Musulin suddenly snapped and decided to heist a whole load of money – €11.6 million, in fact, in November 2009.

This is a strange kind of heist movie for several reasons. For one, it doesn’t see the heist itself as an extreme example of capitalist enterprise (see Soderbergh’s Oceans films, for example) but as part of the French revolutionary tradition of taking down institutions when the institutions no longer work for the benefit of the people.

There’s also Cluzet’s performance, as the guy just coming into the last straight before retirement, just on the verge of being treated as an old man by his joshing and very jockish colleagues, permanently seething because he, and his fellow guards, are treated as worthless pieces of shit by the employers.

It’s the story of the guy who, in the words of Freddie Mercury, wants to break free, but might have left it just a touch too late.

And all this hesitancy and doubt is etched across Cluzet’s features, who makes this a film about the loss of virility, potency, youth, the arrival of old age, just as much as one about a guy who steals a huge load of money, kind of justifiably.

The heist itself is simplicity itself, and I won’t go into it. What’s fascinating is the way that we have been primed for something by the fairly unlikeable Musulin’s increasingly odd behaviour. Where, for example, did he get the money to buy a Ferrari F430? Is it just so he can take his girl out for the night of her life, so he can feel like a man again? Little explanation is given. In fact here and there the sheer impenetrability of the film is a bit of problem, inscrutability being bearable only in small doses.

There are many compensations beyond Cluzet himself. Michel Amathieu’s stygian cinematography for one (you might remember 1997’s Dobermann, which he also shot way down in the dark register). And the soundtrack of modern chillout, club vibes, electro beats, adds a mocking layer to Cluzet’s portrait – is this the oldest swinger in town?

No, it’s not perfect, but it is worth holding out till the end of this film, because it gets around to airing the suspicion, which still exists, that the real Musulin didn’t just plan the heist, he also planned his own capture and imprisonment – Musulin received a maximum term of only three years because he pulled off the robbery without guns or violence. Which makes him a very clever man indeed, and doubly the folk hero that he became.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • François Cluzet’s performance
  • Michel Amathieu’s cinematography
  • A great story well told
  • Add to the list of “we hate the banks” dramas post 2008

 

 

 

11.6 – Watch it now at Amazon

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Untouchable

Driss shows Philippe the finer things in life in Untouchable

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

20 April

 

Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech, 1968

On this day in 1968, the senior Conservative British politician Enoch Powell made a speech in which he alluded to Virgil’s Aenid – “As I look forward, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’.” A Greek scholar who also spoke Urdu – Powell as an ambitious young man had set his sights on becoming the viceroy of India, only to find in later life that the Indians were coming to him – Powell was referring to the prospects for race relations in the country, at a time when the government was proposing to strengthen legislation against racial discrimination. His carefully crafted speech put disaster scenarios in the mouths of people he had talked to – eg the constituent who was worried that the black man would have the “whip hand over the white man” in 15 or 20 years if things carried on the way they were going. Members of the press, who were largely in favour of the new legislation, he compared to the appeasers of Hitler. In his speech Powell also cast his gaze over the Atlantic, where race riots had broken out two weeks earlier on the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, and predicted the same would happen in the UK. His party thought Powell was not so much predicting as inciting trouble and sacked him from his job as Shadow Defence Secretary. Powell was popular among some elements of society – notably unskilled working class men who were most directly threatened financially by the arrival of cheaper immigrant labour – but his vision of a nation defined by its racial origin was on the whole not. On the left, his speech marks the end of the notion that the working class were essentially politically progressive. To this day in the UK, the phrase “Enoch was right” still has resonance.

 

 

 

Untouchable (2011, dir: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano)

Untouchable opens with a scene that establishes the entire film. A car is speeding through Paris and is pulled over by the police. Inside are a black man, driving, and a white passenger, totally paralysed. There is a bit of to and fro between police and occupants – the gun-toting police want to know what the rush is, the driver doesn’t quite know what to say, until his tells them his passenger is having a stroke and that he is on a mission of mercy rushing him to the hospital. The police change their tune, and end up escorting the car, sirens wailing, while Earth, Wind and Fire’s September comes up high in the mix and the two men inside the car are seen to be laughing fit to bust.
This is the story of the proletarian (strong, smart, rising) and the master (weak, crippled, on the wain), a story as old as time, the story that succours the poor (we may not have much but we do have our vigour) and also informs the rich (who marry to “improve the bloodline”). Thankfully, none of these themes are ever made explicit. Instead we get the entirely charming odd-couple bromance of Philippe, a quadriplegic member of the cravat-wearing plutocracy and Driss, his carer, a gazelle-like black man who, in an early montage, is shown to be the least suitable, superficially, of all the candidates assembled for the job of being the latest of Philippe aides de campe. So far, so Hollywood.
In fact nothing in this film is really surprising – Driss has street smarts, has an eye for the ladies, likes fast cars, is inappropriately raucous, smokes weed, loves 1970s disco boogie. Philippe has hired him, against the wishes of his appalled staff, because he suspects that Driss won’t behave around him in the way most of his staff do – the sympathy, the Mother Theresa faces, the hushed reverence for his cash and his condition. Philippe is right and the film is essentially The King and I, or any number of other “getting to know you” films.
If nothing is surprising, that’s not to say that it isn’t delightful. Thanks to a pair of brilliant performances at its heart – Omar Sy as the force-of-nature Driss, and François Cluzet as Philippe, a concerto of facial features that would be Oscar-winning if this were a Hollywood film. But is it racist, as a lot of commentators seem to suggest? Nah. It’s one man from the bottom of the pile and another from the top. The fact that the man from the bottom is black is incidental and is society’s problem not the problem of this film, which is really about different competencies, gifts, attributes, attitudes and, yes, bank balances. The great Ernst Lubitsch would recognise it, its light, life-affirming touch, its tug at the heartstrings, the sour faces of Philippe’s dismayed staff as Driss gives the paralysed man a life injection. The French box office loved it. The French critics a bit less so. Their loss.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Because a hesitant Hollywood might never remake it
  • Two great performances by François Cluzet and Omar Sy
  • Support performances of great French character actors
  • It’s fun and funny

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Untouchable aka The Untouchables – at Amazon