Friday, January 11, 2019

HIPPOCRATES: DIARY OF A FRENCH DOCTOR -- proves yet another interesting French medicine movie from Thomas Lilti

Thomas Lilti seems a filmmaker smitten with the medicine bug. Of the four full-length films and single television series he has directed (and either written or co-written), only one of these -- his first film, Les yeux bandés -- did not deal primarily with doctors, hospitals and patients. TrustMovies does not know French cinema all that well, but he suspects it might be safe to call out M. Lilti as the go-to guy for movies medicinal. The current home video release of his 2014 film, HIPPOCRATES: DIARY OF A FRENCH DOCTOR (which saw a very limited U.S. arthouse theatrical run in the summer of 2015) simply adds to the ammunition for this idea, which began when I viewed via last year's home video release of another of his movies, The Country Doctor.

Turns out that M. Lilti, pictured at right, was actually a medical doctor prior to his movie career so this, I suspect, adds a good deal of veracity to his work. The Country Doctor (from 2016) dealt with a younger female physician taking over the practice of an older doctor (who is silently suffering from a cancer diagnosis). Hippocrates, was actually made two years prior and details the experiences of two interns in a city hospital which seems to have gone from public to privately-owned -- which means having to somehow turn a profit.

One of these interns is a very young man, played by the baby-faced Vincent Lacoste (above), and the other is an older immigrant (the always excellent Reda Kateb, below) who was a full-fledged doctor in his native Algeria but now must work his way back up the ladder in France.

How these two interact with each other, with their patients and the rest of the hospital staff -- Lacoste's characters is the son of one of the primary doctors at the hospital, and so this complicates matters -- provides the meat of the movie, during which we see the physicians in charge make decisions more for the good of the hospital than for the good of their patients.

The supporting cast includes Marianne Denicourt (above, right, playing a physician torn between doing the right thing and the most politic thing) and Jacques Gamblin (above, center, as Lacoste's dad, who is also between that rock and hard place). No one here is an out-and-out villain, but our two interns are definitely the "heroes" of the movie.

The questions the film raises are very much worth asking and ruminating over, and the details of hospital life and death seem compelling and true. Overall, the film's worth seeing but, as with The Country Doctor, the finale seems just a little too rushed, easy and "feel-good" to be totally acceptable. It turns reality a tad too much toward the typical movie happy ending.

Running a relatively lean 102 minutes and released theatrically by Distrib Films US and now on DVD via Icarus Home Video, Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor hits the street this coming Tuesday, January 15 -- for purchase and/or (I hope) rental.

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