Monday, 17 December 2012

The Big Picture - film review

The Big Picture is a 2010 French film based on an American book, the best-seller written by Douglas Kennedy. You wouldn't easily guess that the source material is not European, so thoroughly has director Eric Lartigan put his stamp on the film. And the result is thoroughly watchable. The story-line meanders rather, but that is part of its appeal. You never quite know where it is going, and although the finale is inconclusive,it is by no means irritating.

This sounds like I'm damniing the film with faint praise, but that's certainly not my intention. It's just hard to capture what it is that makes The Big Picture work - and it does work. A large part of the answer lies in the charismatic performance of Romain Duris in the lead role of Paul, one of those people who seems at the start of the film to have it all - but really doesn't. Paul is a successful corporate lawyer with a pretty wife and two children he loves. But his real dream was to make it as a photographer. However, he compromised on his real passion to earn money, giving his wife the chance to make a go of becoming a writer. But she fails to break through, and becomes disillusioned and unhappy.

Paul starts to suspect that his wife is having an affair. He is distracted when his business partner (played by Catherine Deneuve) announces she is terminally ill, and asks him to take over the firm. I couldn't quite see what this development added to the story - perhaps it's more important in the novel than the film. Anyway, Paul is deserted by his wife, and sets out to confront her lover - who just happens to be a photographer.

What happens next leads to Paul deciding to change his identity and pursue a new life, in a remote bit of Montenegro (I liked spotting scenes shot in Kotor, which I visited recently). At long last he is living his dream of becoming a photographer.But he becomes too successful for his own good.

I really like identity swap stories, and this story of a lawyer who dreamed of pursuing his creative interests naturally held some resonance for me! An unorthodox and enjoyable film - recommended viewing..


AntK said...

I read the book not long after it was first published; it was a gripping and fast-moving story, which I think was Kennedy's best book. Most of his other books haven't really lived up to this early promise. Reading some of his later work, I have felt that they have lacked depth. still, I'd be interested in seeing the film version of what is probably his best story.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Ant. The film is definitely worth watching and I now fancy reading the book too.