Thursday, November 26, 2009

Trilogy: Lucas Belvaux

Each of these three films can be seen individually without any problem as each tells a different variation of overlapping events. Set in Grenoble, the first film. 'Cavale', tells the story of Bruno, a left-wing revolutionary who has escaped from prison and is looking to revenge himself on the one who betrayed him. He is only briefly in the second film. 'Un couple epatant', the couple played by Ornella Muti and Francois Morel, both of whom are in all three films. The third film 'Apres La Vie' which is about the efforts of Pascal, played by Gilbert Melki, to deal with his wife's drug habit. Agnes, the wife, played by Dominique Blanc, also appears in all three films as does Catherine Frot playing Jeanne. The settings are much the same and, occasionally, shots from the other films are seen, sometimes from a different angle, but the three stories are separate, though the first and third particularly overlap. In 'Cavale', Belvaux, as Bruno, comes across as a bitter, unyielding revolutionary holding firmly to the views that lef to his imprisonment 14 years ago. His actions then and during the film create an unsympathetic picture of a man driven by hatred. Catherine Frot as his former lover, now happily married, is effective in a difficult role in which she agrees to help him in order to see the back of him and Gilbert Melki as the corrupt cop, Pascal, gives a realistic performance of a man who has bent the system to his own ends but still has a conscience. The ending in which Bruno leaves Grenoble is a brilliant coup de cinema, almost worth the rest of the film.
'Un couple epatant' is completely different with Ornella Muti as Cecile, seen briefly in the first film as tghe owner of the chalet in which Bruno hides, becoming suspicious of her husband, Alain, played by Francois Morel who turns up late for a surprise birthday party with an unsatisfactory explanation for his delay. While he is trying to have a minor operation without bothering her, she suspects infidelity and has Pascal, the policeman from the first film, investigate him privately. This he does as both his wife, Agnes, and Jeanne, Catherine Frot, are teacher colleagues of Muti. He devlops an infatuation for Muti (still desirable though 48 years old at the time) but she rejects him. After a series of incidents involving the husband, his adult daughter, his secretary and doctor in which he is convinced his wife is trying to have him killed, all turns out happily. Not lightly enough acted to be a frothy comedy and not sharp enough to work as a farce despite the farcical situations - in part this is down to the cast but also to the director in the weakest, though most enjoyable of the three films.
'Apres La Vie' places Agnes, Dominique Blanc, in the centre of the action as the morphine addicted wife of Pascal who feeds her habit by 'protecting a local villain; he is the one Bruno is after in 'Cavale' and much of the third film deals with the action of the first from a different angle though it starts with the birthday party from the second film using the same set ups from different angles. Having had his supply cut off until he has killed or had Bruno killed, Pascal tries to get Agnes to go five days without anything but she cannot do this and goes out to find her own drugs. While being beatn by a dealer, she is saved by Bruno who takes her home and looks after her. For this act of kindness she helps him saying she does not know what he had done before and that only his present behavious matters. Acting on a tip, Pascal and Jacquillat, the crook, check out his home and Pascal sees Bruno and his wife together without their seeing him and he leaves saying she is there alone. The next day, Pascal tells Agnes that he cannot get morphine until he had killed Bruno which he will not do; subsequently, he is told by Jeanne, who had refused to say a word when taken in for questioning, that Bruno is hiding in a parking garage which information he gives Jacquillat in exchange for morphine. He gives this to Agnes and leaves but she tthinks this means Bruno is dead and throws it away. After the off-screen climx seen in the first film, Pascal reutns home to be told by Agnes that she no longer needs drugs. Despairing, he leavs and climbs up through the old town to kill himself but she has followed him and the film ends up with thei embracing. Mekli and, especially Blanc, give excellent performances and it is interesting to see the use of scenes from the previous two films worked logically in to the action. This was the best acted of the three films in what is an unusual experiment;
I have seen it called a 'Rashomon' but it is not as the overlaps are really building a more complete picture of a few days events involving the same people. This is not a telling of the same incident from different viewpoints but something rather more complex and I am not too certain that it worked. I saw 'Cavale' about a month ago though the other two both this week so the overall balance has been somewhat disturbed as seeing all three close together might produce a different conclusion.

1 comment:

pppatty said...

Interesting approach by the director, but I'm not sure it was a worthwhile exercise since the middle film which was played as comedy was completely at odds with the drama of the first and third films.

Also as you correctly say it would have been better to have viewed all three over a shorter time span since I for one had forgotten most of the characters in Cavale.