The Big Picture
- Kaleem Aftab
- 23 May 2011
Romain Duris turns out an excellent performance in French drama
This adaptation of Douglas Kennedy’s novel relocates the setting from New York and Montana to Paris and the Adriatic Coast. Its plot involves murder, identity theft and abandonment but this is not so much a thriller as an investigation into the psyche of a man struggling with guilt. This is the film that Anton Corbijn wanted The American to be, it’s a very organic throwback to the New Hollywood thrillers of the 1970s.
Romain Duris plays Paul Exben as a Dostoyevskian anti-hero deep in emotional crisis. The lawyer’s marriage has reached a cul-de-sac, so much so that he nicknames his wife (the excellent Marina Foïs) ‘Sarah Bovary’ without the slightest hint of irony. No surprise then that his wife is doing the dirty on him with his neighbour Gregoire (Eric Ruf). Paul’s feelings of inadequacy are fuelled by the fact that Gregoire is a successful photographer, a profession Paul always wanted to pursue. Paul confronts Gregoire and his problems really begin.
Director Eric Lartigau’s nuanced control of atmospherics is impressive, particularly as the action moves to the former Yugoslavia. The source novel’s porous plot demands that not too many questions are asked (it was written before the omnipresence of the internet) and Lartigau manages to suspend belief.
Once again Duris proves that he is always more watchable when playing tormented souls, as in the excellent The Beat that My Heart Skipped, than he is playing romantic leads. As a study of a man pushed to the edge and unable to run away from himself, The Big Picture is as fascinating as it is slow-burning.
Selected release from Fri 24 Jun.