Unfaithful in France
There is something about watching a movie in a foreign language which makes it a different experience to watching one in your native tongue and I don't just mean that you have subtitles to read. Nope what I mean is that it forces you to focus, to concentrate on everything which happens on the screen, the importance of a look, the sound of a piece of dialogue and the musical accompaniment so that you can understand what is happening. It means that a foreign movie which uses a standard mainstream storyline ends up becoming more because of that need to comprehend what is happening through more than words.
That brings me to "The Big Picture" starring Romain Duris; an actor which I have only recently come across but has quickly grabbed my attention. Now "The Big Picture" for me is kind of unique because for the first half we have what is really quite a Hollywood storyline as we meet successful lawyer Paul Exben who discovers that his wife has been cheating on him. In a way it reminded me a bit of "Unfaithful" but with out the sex and told from the opposite viewpoint as we watch Paul discover bit by bit that his wife Sarah has been cheating on him with photographer Greg. And in a typical Hollywood style this leads to death when Paul accidentally kills Greg in a scuffle and rather than turn himself in sets about covering his tracks.
Now trust me this opening half is very Hollywood and there are elements you have to accept like you would in any Hollywood thriller none more so about the fact that Paul just happens to have a body bag and what looks like forensics suit to wear whilst dealing with the dead body. But whilst you have these elements it still draws you in because rather than being fast paced there is depth to all of these scenes be it before the murder or after. Before we get the slow realisation that Sarah has been cheating on him, the bottle of wine, the missed meeting and a scarf in Greg's place all being clues. And then as Paul sets about concealing what he did you get the fear, the dreams he has of what would happen if he is arrested and the consequences of his decisions.
These consequences leads to a very different second half, in fact it feels like it has been written and directed by someone else as all traces of Hollywood vanish. Instead we have this story of Paul having disposed of Greg's body, faked his own death and left France for a new life has to deal with the consequences. We get the initial element of being haunted by his deeds, the constant nervousness that at any time he could be caught out but more significantly when it seems that Paul has finally managed to move on and have the life he always dreamed of, working as a photographer, it all comes back to haunt him, never being able to escape from what he did. But as I said this isn't a Hollywood second half and a cleverer, realistic second half as it is how his life changes which becomes the threat.
Now what is spectacular about all of this is that you are drawn into every second of the movie. When Paul does something in the first half we feel very connected to him, we understand how much he loves his children and so when he has a decision to make we feel his torment as running will mean never seeing his children again. Of course the added aspect of not speaking French means that you are even more focussed on all that happens but even so director Eric Lartigau has crafted a fantastic two sided thriller which really draws you into everything be it the more Hollywood first half or the more subtle, quieter second.
But whilst Eric Lartigau deserves praise so does actor Roman Duris who is simply brilliant from start to finish. It is Duris's wonderful characterisation which draws you into the life of Paul and makes us feel like we know him, from his initial fear of Sarah being unfaithful to the love of his children. But it continues through out and in the second half we feel the nervousness that at any time his new life could end if he is caught out. It means that whilst Duris is not the only actor in "The Big Picture" it is his brilliant performance which captures you and takes you on this journey.
What this all boils down to is that "The Big Picture" is a special movie as it manages to deliver an almost Hollywood thriller style first half and then an equally thrilling but more original second half. Between the direction of Eric Lartigau and the performance of Roman Duris you are sucked in to this story and never want to miss a second.