Film Scouts Reviews

"Un héros très discret (A Self Made Hero)"

by Karen Jaehne

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May 16, 1996

Directed by Jacques Audiard. Written by Audiard and Alain Le Henry, based on the novel by Jean-Francois Deniau. Cinematography by Jean-Marc Fabre. Production design by Michel Vandestien. Music Producer, Hal Willner.

Starring Mathieu Kassovitz (Albert Dehousse), Anouk Grinberg (Servane), Sandrine Kiberlain (Yvette), Albert Dupontel (Dionnet) and a special appearance by Jean-Louis Tringtignant (the narrator).

This is the best French film here. A young man who poses as someone more adventurous, superior, in all ways better than himself and little by little he becomes that someone else, not because he directly lies to people, but because they make assumptions based upon his discreetly saying nothing when they accord him acts of heroism.

Now if this isn't just the film for the Cannes festival, I don't know what is. Half the people out here don't know who they are, are pretending to be somebody they're not, and a damn good number of them have succeeded wildly! I say this is a blueprint for getting in the movie business.

What it's really about is being young in France. Our hero Albert is played by one of France's biggest and most rebellious heart-throbs, and he plays the role like a very nice guy who awakens our need to protect him. Albert is not required to fight in WWII, because he is the only son of a mother who lost her husband in the previous war. (Decent policy) But, as the narrator says, "after the war, Albert joined the French Resistance." This brought gales of laughter, because the French resistance is highly sensitive thing here. Everybody has an opinion on whether this guy or that guy did or did not fight in the resistance, and yet everybody claims to have been there. (In which case, how did the Germans stay so long?)

Albert also leaves his wife and her family who have humiliated him by excuding him from their own resistance activities - as if they cannot trust him, or he's not competent. He sets out to prove himself...a hero!

Albert closely observes the habits of his resistance heroes and apes them until he rises in their estimation, marrying well, and becoming the Chief of Security in Occupied Germany. He does a decent job, but things start to slip and when he marries again, his first wife comes to find him and exposes him. But what do you arrest him for? Really? He serves 3 years for bigamy.

What this movie is getting at, in my own opinion, is how difficult it is to be young in post-war France, particularly in this, the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII. Was your father in the resistance? What was the resistance? Who, if anybody, collaborated? Why is that the measure of a Frenchman? And do you have to mimic those qualities in order to get a job today? In a socially stratified society, every element of your background is inspected, and if you can't control your genetic pool, maybe it's better just to reprogram it.

There remains the question of the fairness to others of Albert's assuming this other identity. But among all the obviously legitimate folks here at Cannes in the business of fooling most of the people most of the time, that's too hard to debate.

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