Saturday, 16 March 2019

French Film Festival (4) - Barrie Pattison reports on the Opening Night attraction THE TROUBLE WITH YOU (Pierre Salvadori)

En liberté!/The Trouble with You was the French Film Festival’s Opening Night and is clearly the kind of undemanding, glossy lightweight that you can expect Palace to pick up for a local run. It even has the standard bearer for popular sub-titled fare - Mlle Audrey Tatou, now edging out of her jeune première leads.

So what’s not to like? Well actually quite a bit.

The film has an ingenious highly structured plot which starts under the titles in a gung ho sadistic action scene where cop Vincent Elbaz smashes the motif door with the picture of the kittens on it to rough up the drug gang (breaking the miscreant's finger with his trigger guard is particularly cringe worthy). 

Turns out this is a story his fellow cop widow, ex-Dardennes star Adèle Haenel, is telling the pair's hero worshiping young son Octave Bossuet. The over the top reverence continues with the French Riviera mayor unveiling of a statue of the late Elbaz in Dirty Harry pose. We never do discover the circumstances of his death on duty.

Haenel has been benched and her associate Damien Bonnard (briefly in Dunkirk) won’t let her join in the raid on the house of bondage that fills up the station with customers in fetish gear. Haenel however discovers from a witness testimony that her heroic ex was a ripoux, a bent copper, and even the engagement ring she promptly flings in the loo was the product of crooked deals like all the high price home comforts that surround her. The kitten door fables she makes up for Bossuet become disturbingly less heroic.

Turns out that Pio Marmaï (Ce qui nous lie/Back to Burgundy) the employee given eight years for a jewellery store heist was actually fall guy in her cop husband’s insurance scam. He’s emerging from the cooler that day, a confirmed hard case. 

Best of the film’s many running gags is his habit of pushing eye holes in the nearest bag to cover his face for convenience store stick ups. Haenel follows the trail of bags to find him with cigarette smoke pouring from the improvised mask he’s wearing as she tries to stop him re-offending back into the Joint. Difficult when he’s into biting off ears in confrontations.

She and the jailbird are attracted, adding to the frustration of Bonnard, and Marmaï interprets Haenel’s advice as “mieux un truand qu’une victime.” This involves Haenel in a call out to the blazing restaurant where they were to have their trist and her joining the line of hookers he sees at the station.

The climax has the video surveillance team unable to interpret the action on their video screens as they watch the brothel properties pressed into service in the up market jewel robbery. (“Is it performance art?”) Like the rest of the film, it's occasionally laugh out loud funny but mainly unsatisfying as Salvadori’s rom com sensibility fails to exploit the material’s outrageousness.

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