Thursday, October 11, 2012

Eric Lartigau's THE BIG PICTURE, seen 18 months ago at Rendez-vous, hits theaters

Eric Lartigau, the French filmmaker who, a few years ago, gave us the splendid family comedy about scents and sense, Prête-moi ta main (I Do, as the English title has it), here tries his hand at classy but florid melodrama. Not surprisingly, he comes up with a melodrama that's, um… classy but florid.

In THE BIG PICURE, an odd combination of family film, thriller and existentialist drag, which M. Lartigau (shown at
right) co-adapted (with Laurent de Bartillat) from the novel by Douglas Kennedy, the always sexy and believable Man of the Moment (French version), Romain Duris, below, stars as the artist-who-has-sold-his-soul-to-materialistic-values (you know: that artist) and the filmmaker pumps a hard dose of reality into his early scenes of French family life so that we’re quite caught up in things.

Then the big moment happens, and oddly enough, we become less engaged, even as the movie takes off into something of a thriller, and our not-quite-hero tries to secure his new life. There is a Versailles-size hole in the center of all this, however, that only very deliberately shut eyes could forgive: a man who wants to keep his (stolen) identity secret -- he refuses to allow photos to be taken of himself -- doesn’t think to use a pseudonym when he gets a major art exhibition? I couldn’t close my eyes tight enough, and so around the two-thirds mark, the movie sank to earth for me like a big balloon suddenly helium-free.

I felt particularly sorry about this sinking because there is so much here that's good. M. Duris is surrounded by some of the best talent France has to offer – Catherine DeneuveMarina Foïs, (above, left) and Niels Arestrup (below) – and Lartigau certainly knows his way around cinematography, performance, pacing and design, and his film, set as it is in France and then abroad, is beautiful to view.

The Big Picture (which has been more interestingly titled The Man Who Would Live His Life in the original French but which would certainly not fly on American movie marquees), from MPI Pictures and running 114 minutes, opens tomorrow, Friday, October 12, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the IFC Center. Elsewhere?  Don't know. And at this point, I have no further information.

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