Seul Contre Tous

*Originally written in 2003

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The follow-up to Noe’s 1991 brutal short Carne begins with a quick recount of what has happened – lead character ‘The Butcher’ has grown up hating the world after becoming an orphan because of the war. He owns a butcher shop and has a daughter, but everything else is sickening to him. He hates everyone and wishes they would all die, as we all die alone in the end. It is him against the stinking world he despises, everything is pointless, nobody cares. These ideas have been done countless times before, but never has effective, cold, or hard-hitting as here although the mood of Taxi Driver comes close. The Butcher kills a man he believed attacked his daughter, but it was the wrong guy, and goes to prison. Eventually he is let out.

Now The Butcher has found a new girlfriend, with her only because she gives him a room, sex, and promises to buy him a new shop. His daughter has been taken away from him and placed into foster care, and he only sees her for short spaces of time. She is the only one who can hold back his anger, and stop him from killing everyone on sight. However, his girlfriend repulses him, her mother is even worse in his eyes, and his grim surroundings only add to his growing hatred and rage. Like Carne, we hear his inner thoughts, how he sees everything as hopeless. Soon his inner monologue mixed with despair and fury causes an unreality and he, along with the viewer become uncertain of what is real, if the actions he takes are just his imagination or not. Soon he explodes with pure rage, beating his pregnant girlfriend on the floor and takes a gun with 3 bullets, intending to get his daughter and destroy everything. As he walks the streets his thoughts continue, and we wonder whether the people we walk with on our streets may be like this.

He is alone. Only the gun keeps him company. Several further shocking and brutal scenes are shown and they are made all the more unbearable because of the relentless pounding of words such as HATE being fired into our heads. That BOOM effect is useful in making the viewer uncomfortable, guns going off as the scenes cut. Our senses are assaulted by Noe’s direction, and Nahon’s performance is extremely impressive, easily worthy of any award. The scene where he repeatedly punches his girlfriend seems to go on forever, with all too real acting from her (Frankye Pain) adding to the horror. One scene with his daughter involving the gun is horrifying, but filmed so oddly beautifully and tenderly that we cannot look away, no matter how much we know we should be. If The Butcher escapes one harrowing act, he quickly replaces it with another. Characters like this are typically only seen in the realms of over the top horror, but Seul Contre Tous is entirely grounded in the real world.

Blandie’s performance as The Daughter is excellent, her vacancy ironic, he passivity revealing. With so much going for it, the film should rightly be seen by all self respecting movie fans, but beware that it won’t be easy. The film would be almost unwatchable if not for the beautiful cinematography, as well as some humour. However, the humour is so tongue-in-cheek that many people simply may not see it. It may leave you depressed with the world, or act as some skewed catharsis and give you hope because of your ‘better’ position. An extremely impressive film that deserves much more notice than it has received, but then again it is not the type of film you would take your partner, parents, or kids to see. Watch it on your own and let the pure emotion, and complete lack of love seep into you. One of a select breed of utterly harrowing films which will stay with you forever.

Let us know what you think of Seul Contre Tous in the comments!

Priceless

Pierre Salvadori’s Priceless is a modern, more cynical version of Breakfast At Tiffany’s – the location moved to opulent Southern France, and Audrey Hepburn has been replaced by the equally gorgeous and engaging Audrey Tautou. She plays a money hungry legacy chaser, a young and intelligent, pretty woman who stalks ridiculously wealthy older men, seducing them into becoming their sugar daddy. She is one of an elite group who haunts this area, and similar places throughout the world, and she will stop at nothing to make sure her life is not taken away. Gad Elmaleh (the funniest man in France) plays a hardworking waiter/barman/doorman/hotel employee extraordinaire in this extravagant place, also serving never being served. A series of events lead to Tautou’s character believing Elmaleh’s to be one of the elite she pursues, and enchanted by her he plays along. Soon the truth is revealed- Tautou leaves in search of another, and Gad is left with nothing. Naturally, he loves her and follows her, and so begins a gently funny and clever series of games where the viewer roots for the inept couple to finally get together.

Normally i am not a fan of romantic comedies, but I am a big fan of Audrey Tautou. She is versatile, always charming, always entertaining, always managing to lift what would otherwise be average films. Here she plays to her most popular strengths – her cute smile and sparkle in her eye meaning she is concocting some mischievous scheme, her dialogue delivery letting her character be at the same time strong willed and vulnerable. She is given a clever script to work with, and her character is an opportunistic schemer. Elmaleh is on familiar territory here, and he does his best Basil Fawlty routine, though he is a more likable character. He gets to perform some Buster Keaton-esque scenes, all the time enamouring the audience to him. We root for him because he is a loser. He want him to succeed because he has thrown away what little he had on an unlikely chance at love. The chemistry between the two is strong, and it is almost an inversion of Tautou and Kassovitz from Amelie. With the surprises in the script alongside these performances, the film already rises above the rubbish that is usual in the genre.

Salvadori, as well as getting the best from the film’s stars, gets to show off the scenery of Southern France and gives everything the gleam of wealth and beauty. Of course, all of this is hollow and ultimately all we want is for the characters to get away together. Although the film has little depth, the script fills the holes and it takes a talent to turn a character who is little more than a hooker and thief into someone we can care about. With moments reminiscent of Heartbreakers, Priceless is above all a heart-warming film like Amelie that will make even the most cynical hermit believe in romance.

As always, feel free to leave any comments on the movie and the review: Is this up there with Amelie, or should we stop making such comparisons?

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