Jacques Audiard (France, 1952) debuted with
Regarde les Hommes Tomber/ See How They Fall (1994).
Un Heros Tres Discret/ A Self-Made Hero (1996) was
an adaptation of the novel by Jean-Francois Deniau.
Sur mes Levres/ Read My Lips (2001) is possibly his best film.
De Battre Mon Cour S'Est Arrete'/ The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005),
whose story is based on James Toback's Fingers,
is an emotionally gripping portrayal of a man troubled by two many colliding
lives. Unfortunately it is ruined by an irrelevant ending.
Before the final scene, the protagonist was living a highly symmetric
doppelganger kind of life: on one hand the business man, trained by his father
to be ruthless, with a gorgeous if dumb sexual partner and a nemesis who is
a mobster, and on the other hand
the musician, trained by his mother to be a loser, with an angelic and sexless
teacher and a benefactor who is a classical music expert.
This is a wildly multicultural story in which immigrants pop up everywhere:
they are squatters, mobsters, bad tenants, but also devoted piano teachers.
A lot of them don't speak any French, which makes it difficult for the
protagonist to communicate with them other than through violence or money.
A man tells a friend, Thomas, how his father regressed to being a helpless baby
and he had to take care of his father like he was his son.
Three young men drive at night, discussing shady deals.
They drop rats in a building to get rid of the people who moved in there
illegally. Next, two of them, Fabrice and Thomas, fight with squatters and a
city official who defends the squatters.
To avoid more squatters, the two demolish the rest of the building.
Thomas' job is to make real estate deals with derelict buildings, and in most
cases this involves the use of stratagems to get rid of the families that
live in such abandoned places, mostly poor immigrants from Africa.
He learned the trade from his father. He meets him at a restaurant and learns
that he wants to get married again, this time with a very young girl.
Thomas is hostile to the girl and tells his father that she's just a whore.
His father has problems with an Arab tenant who hasn't paid rent in six months
and asks Thomas to take care of it.
While driving around, Thomas accidentally recognizes an old man:
his (now dead) mother was a concert pianist and this was her manager.
Thomas used to be a promising classical pianist
and now the old man wants him to audition for him.
The truth is that Thomas has not played in ten years, having been initiated to
the real estate business by his father.
Something awakens inside Thomas, though, who now wants to find out if he can
still play. He is introduced to a fresh immigrant from China, a woman named
Miao who doesn't speak any French.
His father is hostile to the idea because his mother ended cheating on him
and dying poor.
Thomas would rather not help his father with the Arab tenant,
but the tenant beats his father and then Thomas breaks into the place,
sets fire to the kitchen, beats the tenant and holds a
knife to his throat until he gets the money owed to his father.
His father raised him to become this enforcer of real estate deals, not to
become the pianist that his mother wanted him to become.
Thomas loves his father, but now wants his freedom to dream.
His friend and business partner Fabrice uses Thomas to cheat on his gorgeous
wife Aline: whenever Fabrice has an appointment with another woman, he pretends
that he's having dinner with Thomas.
Meanwhile, Thomas begins to take lessons from Miao: it is a painful experience,
as he has lost much of his technique.
Later that night he brings back home a very drunk Fabrice and faces a
Now he basically lives three lives: a night life of clubs and loud music,
a suit and tie life of business deals, and the life of a piano student.
When Aline finds Thomas alone without Fabrice when the two men are supposed to
be dining together, Thomas stops pretending.
Aline knows that her husband has been cheating on her.
Thomas has been secretely admiring the beautiful and elegant Aline, and now
he has a chance to tell her and to test her feelings. It turns out she is
attracted too. They become lovers.
Now he has a fourth life: secret lover of Aline.
The suit and tie business is going downhill because he is distracted by his
piano lessons. He keeps seeing Aline and is jealous that she is still having
sex with Fabrice and makes her jealous telling her that he too sleeps with
The Chinese teacher is very strict and demanding.
Thomas' father is beaten by a Russian partner who refuses to return some
bribe money. His father also broke up with his fiance.
Thomas has lunch with her and offers her money to watch over his father,
feeling that the man is getting old and cannot be trusted anymore.
Now he has a fifth life: watching over his aging father.
Thomas finds the Russian in luxury hotel, but realizes that he is a dangerous
mobster, constantly followed by two bodyguards. Thomas can only take his
revenge indirectly, seducing the Russian's very young French girlfriend.
Thomas is increasingly frustrated that
the Chinese girl is so much better than him as a pianist.
But one day she finally says "good" at his playing and makes him smile.
Just in time: it's the eve of the audition. She tells him that
he needs to rest, but instead his business partners bang at his door in the
middle of the night with the news that they have a chance to
close an important deal right away about an empty building.
She told him to relax and sleep:
instead he has to help his friends take care of squatters.
This time Thomas is disgusted watching his partners enjoy the African
immigrants run away after their furniture has been destroyed.
Morning comes and Thomas walks to the audition. Whether because he didn't
sleep enough or because the piano lessons were not enough,
he badly fails the audition. Later he finds his father killed in his apartment.
The film suddenly fast forwards by two years: Thomas has become the manager
(and possibly the boyfriend) of the Chinese pianist, who
now speaks fluent French. It's an important night for her.
He takes her to the concert hall but then notices the
Russian mobster who killed his father and follows him in the restrooms.
Thomas attacks him and they end up fighting in the stairwell while the
Miao's concert has started. Thomas grabs the Russian's gun to finish him but
He then washes his face in the restrooms and walks to his seat in the
auditorium to watch the Chinese pianist finish her performance.
Un Prophete/ A Prophet (2009) is a powerful psychological portrait
and a ferocious fresco of prison life.
Malik, a Muslim teenager, is in jail for attacking a cop. His attorney treats
him like routine, only interested in getting his compensation. Malik is sent
to a jail for six years and is immediately attacked by thugs who steal his
shoes. Meanwhile, an important witness, also a Muslim, is sent to the same jail. The old mobster Cesar, who is incarcerated there, wants to kill him.
Cesar, an Italian, has a group of
loyal Italian thugs and has bribed guards around the prison. Cesar decides to draft
the newcomer, Malik, for the killing. Malik's initial response is to call for
the warden, but, instead of the warden, Cesar's men show up and beat him up:
it's a way to prove to Malik who is in charge in that prison.
Cesar's men train him how to carry out the killing with a razor blade, taking
advantage of the fact that the witness wants oral sex from Malik in exchange
for drugs. Malik pretends to accept the deal but instead attacks the witness and
cuts his throat. Malik is tormented by fear and remorse but he is now under the
protection of Cesar's clan.
Born an orphan and raised in a juvenile center, Malik is illiterate.
The Muslims of the prison organize schools and he is invited to attend one
to learn how to read and write.
After one year Malik is still alienated from both groups. Cesar's group and
the Muslims antagonize each other, and Malik, a Muslim, does not belong to
either group. Cesar's group is clearly racist towards him, excluding him
from social activities.
On the other hand,
Ryad, a Muslim, teaches Malik to read and write, and spends time with him,
even telling him that he survived testicle cancer after chemotherapy.
The other Muslims resent their friendship, viewing Malik as an enemy.
One day Cesar receives bad news: a political decision from the government
means that some of his men will be transferred and others released, i.e. that
Cesar will remain alone in his old age. The director of the prison in person
sympathyzes with him and tries to cheer him up.
Malik surprises Cesar: Malik has learned to speak Italian, and is the last
loyal man left to Cesar. Cesar reluctantly promotes him to his lieutenant,
asking the warden to appoint Malik porter and to move him to the cell next door,
with all sorts of privileges. Malik serves Cesar loyally, reporting back to him
everything that takes place in the prison, including talks in Italian that
the Italian prisoners don't think Malik can understand.
Cesar is worried about his business empire and finds a way to get Malik
promoted so that the kid can get a free day off every now and then and operate
outside on his behalf.
Meanwhile, Malik also befriends Jordi, a gypsy and a drug dealer, while Ryad is released
and starts a humble family life outside. Jordi has a problem: before being
arrested, he hid a sack full of drugs in a gas station's restroom, and has
no way to rescue it.
On the first day off, Malik is asked to deliver a briefcase full of money.
He is not told that the money is for the release of a man, an extremely
weak man whom Malik has to carry out on his shoulders. He gets paid well for
his service. Then he stops by the gas station and rescues Jordi's drugs.
When Malik meets Ryad again, he has money and drugs. He invites Ryan to become
a partner in a drug dealing business with Jordi.
Ryad accepts and drives him back to jail in time. Officially, Ryad found
Malik a job in a car-repair shop. The business goes well, but there are two
problems. First, Cesar wants Malik to infiltrate and destabilize the Muslims
because they are increasing in number and don't respect him. Therefore Cesar
sends two guards to mess up the cells of the Muslims and then asks their
leader to do something for him in return for relieving the pressure:
Cesar needs to communicate with a Muslim gangster named Brahim.
Second, a rival gang, led by Latif the Egyptian, kidnap Ryad and steal the
drugs. Malik finds out that Latif's brother-in-law is incarcerated in the
same prison, has his family kidnapped and trades one for the other.
The turmoil, however, doesn't go unnoticed to Cesar, who finds out the truth.
Cesar is angry because Malik is using his leave time to do a risky business
that could cost him the loss of his leave time that Cesar needs to carry
out his own business. Cesar punishes Malik violently in front of other
prisoners and Malik swears to kill him.
At the same time he is still haunted by nightmares about his killing of the witness three years earlier.
Cesar orders Malik to use his next leave day to travel to a distant city by
airplane and contact Brahim.
Ryad drives Malik, dressed like a businessman, to the airport. He is excited
because he has never taken a plane before.
It turns out that that Brahim was friend with the witness killed by Malik
and wants revenge. Malik saves his life because, still traumatized by a dream,
he warns the driver that deer are about to cross the road, which happens just then.
Brahim calls him "a prophet" and instantly becomes his friend.
Brahim tells Malik that there is a snitch among the Italians. Back in the
prison, Cesar agrees and sends a message to his gang that they need to find
Cesar has bigger plans though: he wants to assassinate his own boss and take
his place. Cesar asks Malik and Ryad to do it. Malik agrees but then works
out an alternative plan with Ryad, who is now dying of cancer and needs
money for his wife and baby.
On a leave day, Malik and Ryad follow the armored van of the mafia boss, then
Malik attacks him killing everybody inside except the boss. Then they tell him
that Cesar sent them to kill him, thus igniting a feud between Cesar's gang
and the mafia.
Ryad asks Malik to promise that he will take of his wife and baby.
Malik sleeps at Ryad's house against the regulations of the prison, but he is
happy to be confined in solitary punishment because this allows him to escape the war
among the two gangs that kills a lot of inmates.
After 40 days he returns to his regular cell, but he refuses to talk to Cesar.
When Cesar tries to approach him, it is the Muslims who protect him and kick
Cesar away: Cesar is now a finished man, alone and powerless.
The six years are over and Malik is released from prison. Outside he is met
by Ryad's widow and her baby. It looks like the beginning of a new life,
but they are followed by a convoy of vehicles... Malik's new gang or a gang
sent to assassinate him?
De Rouille et d'Os/ Rust and Bone (2012)
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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