Friday, December 8, 2017

VODebut for Pascal Elbé's queasy but energetic con-man bio-pic, THANK YOU FOR CALLING

TrustMovies doesn't think he'd ever heard of a man named Gilbert Chikli, prior to viewing the 2015 film, THANK YOU FOR CALLING (Je compte sur vous), which turns out to be all about this very sleazy real-life fellow. Written (with some help from Noé Debré and Isaac Sharry) and directed by Pascal Elbé and starring Vincent Elbaz as this con-man extraordinaire, the movie moves along lickety-split and is great fun to view as we watch in wonderment at the great gift for conning people that our anti-hero possesses.

M. Elbé, shown at left, has both paced his film very well and given it enough visual flair to keep up gratefully watching, even as the stuff that M. Chikli gets up to on-screen is growing ever more queasy-making. For some (my spouse, for instance), this will make it difficult to identify with or care about the Chikli character because you will feel much more concern for the some of the people he's bilking along the way. However, so incredibly strong a performance is being given here by Vincent Elbaz (shown below and above) that this is quite likely to dissolve any objections into thin air.

I have seen M. Elbaz in a number of other films, and have always found him perfectly acceptable, and sometimes very good. But this has got to be the juiciest role he's yet undertaken, and he is simply extraordinary in it. He appears a "born" con man who can't for a moment stop living to scam, and he's so good at it that we can only gasp and then barely keep up with his shenanigans. His performance seems absolutely improvised, too, and the skill with which Elbaz convinces us that he's "thinking fast on his feet" proves sheer amazement.

Elbaz puts to use every ounce of his charisma and sex appeal, both to hold viewers' interest and to keep in line all the many characters who circle around him -- his wife (played by Julie Gayet, below), brother (Ludovik Day, above, right), son and his other "marks" Yes, he constantly deceives even those people whom he should most love and cherish. I suppose that he does love and cherish them, but only in his own bizarre manner.

From the movie's wonderfully witty opening scene -- which shows us Chilki as a young boy who must somehow handle a visit from the local police -- to the penultimate one in a French police station that will leave you equally amazed and amused, the filmmaker and his leading actor join forces to bring this sleazebag's story to crazy but vital life. Clearly, his narcissistic and creepily entitled mother (played with ugly gusto by Nicole Calfan) was a major force in the life of both the boy and the man he became.

Elbaz convinces us from almost the start that he indeed lives for the scam and knows no other way to behave. How "truthful" the film is to what actually happened, I cannot say, but clearly, Chikli got away with so much so often that his real life very nearly defied believability. His "reel life," then, would seem to follow suit. Even the French police inspector (wonderfully played by Zabou Breitman, above, left) who stays on his trail seems to harbor a certain grudging respect for this man.

From Under the Milky Way, running just 94 minutes, in French with English subtitles, the film hit VOD this past week. For fans of Elbé, Elbaz, and real-life con-men stories, I'd call this one a "must." To learn more information on how to view this one, click here.

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