The addition of star power might have injected more interest into what was always going to be a hard sell.
Considering the last major film release to reach these shores by French director Bertrand Blier was 1996’s Mon homme, it’s entirely plausible a whole generation will have gone without seeing the work of this arch provocateur, best known for his eight films with Gérard Depardieu, including Les valseuses, Préparez vos mouchoirs, winner of the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1979, and Too Beautiful for You, which garnered five French César awards.
It could be argued that Blier, for good or ill, paved the way at the cinema for the work of Gaspar Noé and Virginie Despentes’ Baise-Moi. At the opening of the 71-year-old director’s latest, alcoholic writer Charles Faulque (Jean Dujardin) is confronted by his cancer in human form, played by Albert Dupontel (the best friend of Vincent Cassel’s character in Irreversible).
"I thought it would be a good idea if we got to know each other a bit," the ‘inconsiderate, over-familiar’ cancer tells his host. Faulque initially tries to put up a fight but what’s the point: "You’ve won a Pulitzer, you can’t win another."
What could play as an extended single-note bad joke is given depth by Blier’s typically adroit manipulation of preconceived ideas, notably through the concept that those who love Faulque can also see his cancer, which is invisible to everyone else. This device allows for enough surprises to hold the attention until an unfortunately hamfisted denouement.
The addition of star power – Depardieu or someone of his ilk – might have injected more interest to what was always going to be a hard sell. Soundtrack fans may be interested by Blier’s determination to score every scene to a different genre of music, from Handel through Lester Bowie, finally closing with Nina Simone’s version of Brel standard 'Ne me quitte pas'.
The return of French cinema’s one-time enfant terrible.
Infectious, and certainly not terrible.
Time to reinvestigate the earlier work of this now grandparent terrible.