Sunday, January 4, 2015

DVDebut: In PLAYING DEAD, Jean-Paul Salomé offers up an enchanting, low-key who-done-it

Who'd have thought that Jean-Paul Salomé, the fellow who earlier gave us Belphégor - Le fantôme du Louvre and The Adventures of Arsène Lupin would come up with such a low-key charmer like the new PLAYING DEAD (Je fais le mort). As we've been told, many times, you never know. The U.S. distributor of this new French comedy/ mystery, First Run Features, distributes many more docu-mentaries than it does narrative movies. When it offers one of the latter, however -- from Nobody Else But You to Secret ThingsWhat if...? to Special Treatment -- the film is worth seeing. As is FRF's newest arrival.

It stars the very popular Belgian comedian/actor François Damiens (above) in the kind of role at which he excels: the very annoying, full-of-himself, and can't-seem-to-help-it provocateur. We've loved the surprisingly versatile M. Damiens in everything from The Wolberg Family to Heartbreaker and Delicacy, and here he comes through again as an out-of-work actor (he can't get jobs due to his abrasive personality) who proves smarter than he looks (or acts) while playing the corpse in a law enforcement murder reconstruction in which all is definitely not as it first appears.

M. Salomé, shown at right, both directed and co-wrote this amusing little trifle, so major credit for its charm and success must go to him, along with his well-chosen, classy cast. This would include Géraldine Nakache (below) as the judicial person in charge of the reconstruction, Lucien Jean-Baptiste (at left, two photos below) as the local police inspector, Anne Le Ny as the very interesting lady who owns the hotel where the reconstruction team is staying, Jean-Marie Winling as the only surviving member of the murder massacre, and Corentin Lobet (especially provocative and funny) as the tiny little fellow who is the supposed murderer.

There's very little pushing here; the plot unfolds gracefully, with humor and a bit of surprise now and then. And the French Alps scenery, of course, should please anyone with a taste for snowy vistas and charming little resort hotels.

There's nothing great here, however. Real mystery fans may well expect more, but for comedy/mystery aficionados, we don't get movies like this often enough to look that gift horse in the mouth.

In French with English subtitles and running just a tad too long at 104 minutes, Playing Dead will appear on DVD and via VOD streaming.

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