Posted by: greercn | June 29, 2010

l’arnacoeur (Heartbreaker)

This original French-language romantic comedy fizzes with refreshing notions and slightly cynical ideas of love. The two leads – Vanessa Paradis  and Romain Duris – both have significant followings in France and they look wonderful and carry the film well. Their strong performances lift this to the feeling of a classic Bogart/Bacall sizzler. Boy oh boy, do they have chemistry.

Duris is Alex, a professional cad who runs a business with his sister and brother-in-law, breaking up unhappy relationships for pay. That would be relationships of the very rich, then, since the fees for this service  do not come cheap. Alex has principles and will not break up a happy relationship. Fortunately, there are few reasons for such scruples in most of the business they do.

 Julie Ferrier and Francois Damiens are comic and believable in the roles of sister Melanie and brother-in-law  Marc. The story begins in Morocco, but most of the action is set in Monaco and the area around it, which is just such a beautiful place to as a backdrop to a movie.

Paradis is Juliette, who is due to be married in a week to Jonathan, a rich Englishman played by Andrew Lincoln. He is a revelation in this part, giving Duris a run for his reputation as the movie’s sex symbol. I don’t need to tell you that Alex is hired to break up Juliette and Jonathan, do I?

Pascale Chaumeil directs with the calm authority of a Hollywood great. No, I never heard of him either. Yet he has that special touch that makes a romcom sparkle and gets super performances from stars and bit players alike.

The words are very funny (Laurent Zeitoun and Jeremy Doner) but they are let down by terrible English subtitles. They sprinkle in Americanisms (panties instead of knickers) and make a million other howlers. You can just see the subtitler saying “yeah, I can do that” and convincing the French/Monaco production team they can, but they simply couldn’t. A proficient schoolchild could have done better and wouldn’t have missed out quite so much that is gorgeous in the poetic French.

But that didn’t bother the very packed Screen 3 at Stratford Picture House, many of whom were there, like me, because this was a free screening for members and may well have been the London premiere. We didn’t get the red carpet or Paradis or Duris. I guess I will just have to get therapy if I am traumatised by that. Anyway, we all laughed a lot and enjoyed our freebie very much.

Helena Noguerra is very funny as Juliette’s friend Sophie, an irrepressible nymphomaniac. There are too few of those in the world.

So, it’s a great movie. Go see it. the better your French is, the more you will like it. Vanessa Paradis has finally shrugged off the ghost of “Joe Le Taxi”. And Romain Duris has finally done something as good as “The Beat My Heart Skipped”. I think this may be the start of French movies being important and special, again. There have been some glimpses of this over the last few years, from Audiard and others, and I will pay more attention now.

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