Sunday, September 30, 2018

NUMBER ONE FAN: DVDebut for Jeanne Herry's dark/funny/oddly real study of obsession

In NUMBER ONE FAN (Elle l'adore), her first full-length film, French writer/directer (sometimes actress, too) Jeanne Herry offers a very interesting and different look at obsession: that of a middle-aged woman fan's adoration of her "hero," a super-popular singer who is equally obsessed with his own career and reputation. What makes the film so unusual is Ms Herry's approach -- which is not from any of the usual angles we might expect.

The filmmaker (shown below) refuses to turn this into a comedy or a tragedy or even the
kind of mystery/police procedural we often see. And yet, as the movie moves along, it becomes, without seeming to even try, all of the above. And it does so while remaining, moment to moment, utterly real without ever resorting to any of the usual "movie" techniques (super-snappy editing and/or pounding music to ramp up the suspense).

Instead things stay relatively quiet and calm, even as they grow increasingly bizarre. This is an unusual "technique," to say the least, but in the end it pays off rather well.

In the starring roles, Ms Herry is fortunate to have two fine (and terrifically appropriate) actors: Sandrine Kiberlain (shown above) and Laurent Lafitte. Ms Kiberlain has always excelled (in literally every role she appears), especially when she plays the oddball outsider, as here. She captures that peculiar obsessive quality that fans bring to their adoration, which allows them to concentrate on their idol to the diminution of all else in their lives -- from their children to their employment.

M. Lafitte (above and below) brings his gorgeous face and physique to the fore, as a top-grade performer so used to the "entitled" spotlight that, when an accident happens that would have any remotely "normal" person calling for an ambulance and/or the police, instead reacts only in his celebrity "career protection" mode. On one level this is beyond crazy; one another, it is simply standard practice for the narcissistic celeb.

How events pile up and go quietly to shit is also somehow expected. But the manner in which Ms Herry handles it all is certainly not. One one level the movie becomes an oddball police procedural involving a pair of romantically involved cops (Pascal Demolon and Olivia Côte, below, respectively, left and right), one of whom is, as her lover describes it, a nymphomaniac. This provides not only some very weird-but-understandable plot points, but a chance for the two actors (below) to strut their stuff, believably and enjoyably.

How the movie winds up (and down) is low-key but effective, turning much of what we've seen on its head. Holding it all together is Ms Kiberlain, who has one scene toward the finale in which she is under questioning in the police station -- and allowing her character to give the performance of her life -- that should offer enormous evidence, were any still needed, of what a supremely expert actress she is.

From Distrib Films US and Icarus Films Home Video, the DVD hits the street this Tuesday, October 2 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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