November 6, 2008

Tell no one.

Michael Caine's favourite film of 2007 (not a lot of people know that) has finally opened at a theatre near us – exactly two years after its première. Guillaume Canet's Ne le dis à personne is an adaptation of the Harlan Coben novel Tell No One, set in a France were people still smoke like it's healthy for you (if you're trying to quit or recently succeeded, the first half of the film will be torturous), with François Cluzet in a César winning turn as a paediatrician trying to cope with his wife's suspicious death eight years earlier.

Coping proves virtually impossible when he suddenly receives an e-mail apparently sent by her, and further corpses are found in the spot where she allegedly died. As the dumbfounded doctor delves deeper into painful events past, attempting to decipher the e-mail and discern its origin, he soon finds himself implicated in murder while rapidly descending into the gaping chasm that separates the established part of French society from its growing immigrant population.

The social commentary subtly conveyed via in-jokes and exchanges in banlieue milieus may be lost on an audience unaware of the French government's abysmal failure to integrate newcomers, and most of the cast will be unfamiliar to those for whom French films are a rare treat. But fans of Les Invasions barbares will recognise Quebecois Marie-Josée Croze as the allegedly deceased wife, and Marina Hands as the paediatrician’s naïve sister, while followers of The Transporter films can enjoy François Berléand portraying yet another sympathetic cop (though without the culinary bent).

Most certainly Kristin Scott Thomas' cover as exquisitely British will be blown for good, exposing her as the French actress she really is.
Director Canet may be an unknown quantity in North America, but he's a well-established actor (and heart-throb) in France, where this, his second feature film, clinched him a César for Best Director. Another César, for the soundtrack that impressively channels some of Serge Gainsbourg's more drowsy moments, went to Mathieu "-M-" Chedid – last heard here performing the theme to Les Triplettes de Belleville.

It's no stretch to imagine a North American adaptation, with Will Smith and Rosario Dawson leaping off tall buildings while increasingly impressive explosions, CGI, and wire-stunts compete to surmount them. But this is a European film in the understated tradition of small budgets scraped together from numerous sources, where special effects and smart product placement isn't as readily available to mask lack of talent or shoddy screenplay. Hence, here's a somewhat long, Hitchcockian whodunit, vaguely reminiscent of Christopher Nolan's Memento, about the lengths some people will go to protect their loved ones. A rare treat indeed.

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