Jacques Audiard

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

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Jacques Audiard (France, 1952) debuted with Regarde les Hommes Tomber/ See How They Fall (1994).

Un Heros Tres Discret/ A Self-Made Hero (1996) was an adaptation of the novel by Jean-Francois Deniau.

The psycho-thriller Sur mes Levres/ Read My Lips (2001) is possibly his best film.

De Battre Mon Cour S'Est Arrete'/ The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005), whose story is based on James Toback's Fingers, is an emotionally gripping portrayal of a man troubled by two many colliding lives. Unfortunately it is ruined by an irrelevant ending. Before the final scene, the protagonist was living a highly symmetric doppelganger kind of life: on one hand the business man, trained by his father to be ruthless, with a gorgeous if dumb sexual partner and a nemesis who is a mobster, and on the other hand the musician, trained by his mother to be a loser, with an angelic and sexless teacher and a benefactor who is a classical music expert. This is a wildly multicultural story in which immigrants pop up everywhere: they are squatters, mobsters, bad tenants, but also devoted piano teachers. A lot of them don't speak any French, which makes it difficult for the protagonist to communicate with them other than through violence or money.

A man tells a friend, Thomas, how his father regressed to being a helpless baby and he had to take care of his father like he was his son. Three young men drive at night, discussing shady deals. They drop rats in a building to get rid of the people who moved in there illegally. Next, two of them, Fabrice and Thomas, fight with squatters and a city official who defends the squatters. To avoid more squatters, the two demolish the rest of the building. Thomas' job is to make real estate deals with derelict buildings, and in most cases this involves the use of stratagems to get rid of the families that live in such abandoned places, mostly poor immigrants from Africa. He learned the trade from his father. He meets him at a restaurant and learns that he wants to get married again, this time with a very young girl. Thomas is hostile to the girl and tells his father that she's just a whore. His father has problems with an Arab tenant who hasn't paid rent in six months and asks Thomas to take care of it. While driving around, Thomas accidentally recognizes an old man: his (now dead) mother was a concert pianist and this was her manager. Thomas used to be a promising classical pianist and now the old man wants him to audition for him. The truth is that Thomas has not played in ten years, having been initiated to the real estate business by his father. Something awakens inside Thomas, though, who now wants to find out if he can still play. He is introduced to a fresh immigrant from China, a woman named Miao who doesn't speak any French. His father is hostile to the idea because his mother ended cheating on him and dying poor. Thomas would rather not help his father with the Arab tenant, but the tenant beats his father and then Thomas breaks into the place, sets fire to the kitchen, beats the tenant and holds a knife to his throat until he gets the money owed to his father. His father raised him to become this enforcer of real estate deals, not to become the pianist that his mother wanted him to become. Thomas loves his father, but now wants his freedom to dream. His friend and business partner Fabrice uses Thomas to cheat on his gorgeous wife Aline: whenever Fabrice has an appointment with another woman, he pretends that he's having dinner with Thomas. Meanwhile, Thomas begins to take lessons from Miao: it is a painful experience, as he has lost much of his technique. Later that night he brings back home a very drunk Fabrice and faces a suspicious Aline. Now he basically lives three lives: a night life of clubs and loud music, a suit and tie life of business deals, and the life of a piano student. When Aline finds Thomas alone without Fabrice when the two men are supposed to be dining together, Thomas stops pretending. Aline knows that her husband has been cheating on her. Thomas has been secretely admiring the beautiful and elegant Aline, and now he has a chance to tell her and to test her feelings. It turns out she is attracted too. They become lovers. Now he has a fourth life: secret lover of Aline. The suit and tie business is going downhill because he is distracted by his piano lessons. He keeps seeing Aline and is jealous that she is still having sex with Fabrice and makes her jealous telling her that he too sleeps with other women. The Chinese teacher is very strict and demanding. Thomas' father is beaten by a Russian partner who refuses to return some bribe money. His father also broke up with his fiance. Thomas has lunch with her and offers her money to watch over his father, feeling that the man is getting old and cannot be trusted anymore. Now he has a fifth life: watching over his aging father. Thomas finds the Russian in luxury hotel, but realizes that he is a dangerous mobster, constantly followed by two bodyguards. Thomas can only take his revenge indirectly, seducing the Russian's very young French girlfriend. Thomas is increasingly frustrated that the Chinese girl is so much better than him as a pianist. But one day she finally says "good" at his playing and makes him smile. Just in time: it's the eve of the audition. She tells him that he needs to rest, but instead his business partners bang at his door in the middle of the night with the news that they have a chance to close an important deal right away about an empty building. She told him to relax and sleep: instead he has to help his friends take care of squatters. This time Thomas is disgusted watching his partners enjoy the African immigrants run away after their furniture has been destroyed. Morning comes and Thomas walks to the audition. Whether because he didn't sleep enough or because the piano lessons were not enough, he badly fails the audition. Later he finds his father killed in his apartment.
The film suddenly fast forwards by two years: Thomas has become the manager (and possibly the boyfriend) of the Chinese pianist, who now speaks fluent French. It's an important night for her. He takes her to the concert hall but then notices the Russian mobster who killed his father and follows him in the restrooms. Thomas attacks him and they end up fighting in the stairwell while the Miao's concert has started. Thomas grabs the Russian's gun to finish him but can't. He then washes his face in the restrooms and walks to his seat in the auditorium to watch the Chinese pianist finish her performance.

Un Prophete/ A Prophet (2009) is a powerful psychological portrait and a ferocious fresco of prison life.

Malik, a Muslim teenager, is in jail for attacking a cop. His attorney treats him like routine, only interested in getting his compensation. Malik is sent to a jail for six years and is immediately attacked by thugs who steal his shoes. Meanwhile, an important witness, also a Muslim, is sent to the same jail. The old mobster Cesar, who is incarcerated there, wants to kill him. Cesar, an Italian, has a group of loyal Italian thugs and has bribed guards around the prison. Cesar decides to draft the newcomer, Malik, for the killing. Malik's initial response is to call for the warden, but, instead of the warden, Cesar's men show up and beat him up: it's a way to prove to Malik who is in charge in that prison. Cesar's men train him how to carry out the killing with a razor blade, taking advantage of the fact that the witness wants oral sex from Malik in exchange for drugs. Malik pretends to accept the deal but instead attacks the witness and cuts his throat. Malik is tormented by fear and remorse but he is now under the protection of Cesar's clan. Born an orphan and raised in a juvenile center, Malik is illiterate. The Muslims of the prison organize schools and he is invited to attend one to learn how to read and write. After one year Malik is still alienated from both groups. Cesar's group and the Muslims antagonize each other, and Malik, a Muslim, does not belong to either group. Cesar's group is clearly racist towards him, excluding him from social activities. On the other hand, Ryad, a Muslim, teaches Malik to read and write, and spends time with him, even telling him that he survived testicle cancer after chemotherapy. The other Muslims resent their friendship, viewing Malik as an enemy. One day Cesar receives bad news: a political decision from the government means that some of his men will be transferred and others released, i.e. that Cesar will remain alone in his old age. The director of the prison in person sympathyzes with him and tries to cheer him up. Malik surprises Cesar: Malik has learned to speak Italian, and is the last loyal man left to Cesar. Cesar reluctantly promotes him to his lieutenant, asking the warden to appoint Malik porter and to move him to the cell next door, with all sorts of privileges. Malik serves Cesar loyally, reporting back to him everything that takes place in the prison, including talks in Italian that the Italian prisoners don't think Malik can understand. Cesar is worried about his business empire and finds a way to get Malik promoted so that the kid can get a free day off every now and then and operate outside on his behalf. Meanwhile, Malik also befriends Jordi, a gypsy and a drug dealer, while Ryad is released and starts a humble family life outside. Jordi has a problem: before being arrested, he hid a sack full of drugs in a gas station's restroom, and has no way to rescue it. On the first day off, Malik is asked to deliver a briefcase full of money. He is not told that the money is for the release of a man, an extremely weak man whom Malik has to carry out on his shoulders. He gets paid well for his service. Then he stops by the gas station and rescues Jordi's drugs. When Malik meets Ryad again, he has money and drugs. He invites Ryan to become a partner in a drug dealing business with Jordi. Ryad accepts and drives him back to jail in time. Officially, Ryad found Malik a job in a car-repair shop. The business goes well, but there are two problems. First, Cesar wants Malik to infiltrate and destabilize the Muslims because they are increasing in number and don't respect him. Therefore Cesar sends two guards to mess up the cells of the Muslims and then asks their leader to do something for him in return for relieving the pressure: Cesar needs to communicate with a Muslim gangster named Brahim. Second, a rival gang, led by Latif the Egyptian, kidnap Ryad and steal the drugs. Malik finds out that Latif's brother-in-law is incarcerated in the same prison, has his family kidnapped and trades one for the other. The turmoil, however, doesn't go unnoticed to Cesar, who finds out the truth. Cesar is angry because Malik is using his leave time to do a risky business that could cost him the loss of his leave time that Cesar needs to carry out his own business. Cesar punishes Malik violently in front of other prisoners and Malik swears to kill him. At the same time he is still haunted by nightmares about his killing of the witness three years earlier. Cesar orders Malik to use his next leave day to travel to a distant city by airplane and contact Brahim. Ryad drives Malik, dressed like a businessman, to the airport. He is excited because he has never taken a plane before. It turns out that that Brahim was friend with the witness killed by Malik and wants revenge. Malik saves his life because, still traumatized by a dream, he warns the driver that deer are about to cross the road, which happens just then. Brahim calls him "a prophet" and instantly becomes his friend. Brahim tells Malik that there is a snitch among the Italians. Back in the prison, Cesar agrees and sends a message to his gang that they need to find the snitch. Cesar has bigger plans though: he wants to assassinate his own boss and take his place. Cesar asks Malik and Ryad to do it. Malik agrees but then works out an alternative plan with Ryad, who is now dying of cancer and needs money for his wife and baby. On a leave day, Malik and Ryad follow the armored van of the mafia boss, then Malik attacks him killing everybody inside except the boss. Then they tell him that Cesar sent them to kill him, thus igniting a feud between Cesar's gang and the mafia. Ryad asks Malik to promise that he will take of his wife and baby. Malik sleeps at Ryad's house against the regulations of the prison, but he is happy to be confined in solitary punishment because this allows him to escape the war among the two gangs that kills a lot of inmates. After 40 days he returns to his regular cell, but he refuses to talk to Cesar. When Cesar tries to approach him, it is the Muslims who protect him and kick Cesar away: Cesar is now a finished man, alone and powerless.
The six years are over and Malik is released from prison. Outside he is met by Ryad's widow and her baby. It looks like the beginning of a new life, but they are followed by a convoy of vehicles... Malik's new gang or a gang sent to assassinate him?

De Rouille et d'Os/ Rust and Bone (2012)

Dheepan (2015)

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )