Thursday, June 04, 2009

ANYTHING FOR HER / POUR ELLE - Angel, Angel, Down We Go Together

French writer-director Fred Cavaye's ANYTHING FOR HER has been much-praised for its original take on the prison-break-out movie. Cavaye doesn't bother teasing the audience with whether or not the young mother is really guilty of murdering her boss - her innocence is established up-front. Nor are there any typical suspicions of infidelity - she and her husband are clearly in love and they have a supportive family. Neither do we have a break-out masterminded by slick, omniscient gangsters. Rather, Cavaye's protagonist is a middle-aged, naive school-teacher, who accepts that his wife is innocent, doesn't think he can prove her innocent, and wants to break her out of prison and escape overseas. The viewer-interest should reside in seeing this ordinary man grapple with the complexity of planning a successful break-out - in other words, one that doesn't involve being caught the next day. Unfortunately, the concept of the movie collapses in on itself. Because, as a seasoned criminal explains to the protagonist early in the film, successful break-outs aren't for amateurs - they need careful planning, a lot of money, and a lot of luck. This leads Cavaye into a screen-writer's quandary. In order to be authentic to his concept, his protagonist but whimper and fail. But, in order to create an action-filled thriller, his protagonist must behave exactly like the trained criminal that he isn't. That Cavaye can't decide is summed up in a pivotal scene where the desperate man holds up a drug-dealer but then rescues the pusher. I felt it neatly summed up the muddled thinking at the centre of this otherwise technically well made, but literally incredible, film. It will be interesting to see what Paul Haggis makes of the paradox in his English-language remake.

POUR ELLE was released in France and Belgium last year. It is currently on release in Sweden, Turkey and the UK. It opens in Finland on July 3rd.

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