Anchor Marco Werman speaks with Paris-based film critic Lisa Nesselson about two French films that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is about to distribute in the United States.
Weinstein brought “The Artist” to the US.
These movies are a little different from the 2012 Oscar winner for Best picture, for one thing, they are both a little risqué.
Weinstein plans to distribute “Les Infideles,” or “The Players,” which is a raunchy comedy about cheating husbands. “The Players” stars Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin in a role that may shatter his smooth image in the United States.
Weinstein is also planning to distribute “The Intouchables” which is about two men – a quadriplegic aristocrat and a young man from the projects – who who should never have met.
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Marco Werman: Last week, Hollywood movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, was honored in France. President Nicolas Sarkozy presented Weinstein with the Legion of Honor and thanked him for his contribution to international cinema. Weinstein is also a friend of French cinema. He’s distributed a number of French films here in the U.S. They include the very successful Ami Li [sp?] back in 2001, and more recently The Artist, which took home five Academy awards last month. Well, Weinstein is about to release more movies from France. We’re going to hear about two of them. First up, Les In fidelis Fidel, or The Players, a raunchy comedy about cheating husbands.
Movie Excerpt: [spoken in French]
Werman: In the scene, one husband is caught in the act, but still denies the evidence. The Players stars Oscar winner, Jean Dujardin, in a role that may shatter his smooth image here in the United States. Lisa Nesselson is a Paris-based film critic for the British magazine, Screen International. She says Dujardin has been around the block when it comes to dubious roles.
Lisa Nesselson: Jean Dujardin has just been discovered by people in America, but of course, he’s had a long career and a very wide range of roles in France, and many of them borderline politically incorrect. This film, which he initiated, he’s in just about all of the sketches. It’s an Omnibus film. It’s male infidelity as seen by seven directors, only one of whom’s a woman, and Jean Dujardin and his good friend, Gilles Lelouche, not only star in it, but they co-directed the concluding episode, which is absolutely jaw-dropping, and it’s quite obvious that this film is not in favor of cheating and adultery. It’s really making fun of men pushing 40, who are married and happen to think that cheating is a male prerogative, but it’s very raunchy. It makes Bridesmaids look practically demure.
Werman: You know, Jean Dujardin is now known as this kind of classy guy here in this country, a man who doesn’t even need to speak. I mean is this kind of role going to carry over for American audiences?
Nesselson: I think anyone who goes to see it because they liked him in The Artist, is going to be surprised, possibly not pleasantly so. I mean we see him naked, strenuously having sex with woman picked up in bars. We see him naked, trying to pleasure himself in a hotel room. These are characters, but I think it will be a bit of a shock to the system, and I think Harvey Weinstein has been called a magician. He’s going to need Merlin’s powers in my opinion, to sock this one across.
Werman: There’s another French film the Weinstein Company is taking on this year, Untouchable [French pronunciation] or Untouchable. It’s based on a true story of a wealthy man who became quadriplegic after an accident and hired a young African immigrant man from the projects, Le Bon Yure to take care of him. It stars Francois Cluzet as the wealthy man and Omar Sy as the caretaker.
Movie Excerpt: [spoken in French]
Werman: And that’s a clip of The Wealthy Man telling his future caretaker he wont last two weeks on the job, so Lisa, this movie actually struck me as kind of entertaining, but it’s had some terrible pre-reviews here. Variety called it offensive, but it’s been hugely successful in France. Why?
Nesselson: Hugely successful doesn’t begin to cover it. It is 602 percent into profitability.
Nesselson: It is the third most popular film of all time in France. It’s exceeded only by Danny Boone’s, Welcome to the Sticks and Titanic. 19 million people have bought a ticket to see it in a country that’s got about 60 million people and, of course, everyone’s trying to figure out why. It’s an improbably and optimistic story of friendship, that’s one of the theories. It’s escapism. One of the things it’s got going for it is it is, of course, based on something that really happened. An exceptionally wealthy white man in a wheelchair who needs full time care. In real life, the gentleman who became his dear friend, the real life guy, was in fact, a man from North Africa, an Algerian I believe, and here the role is played by Omar Sy, who is a strapping six foot tall black gentleman born in France, and he is as charming in his own realm as Jean Dujardin was in The Artist. He’s irresistible.
Werman: Yeah, Omar Sy is just as charismatic as he can be. Well, give me an example of the predictability of the humor in Untouchable.
Nesselson: Oh, I guess one of the more glaring examples is that the extremely wealthy white gentleman loves classical music and attends the opera and the ballet whenever he can, and the gentleman from the projects likes pop music and rap, and listens to Earth Wind & Fire, and dances, so it’s infectious, it’s a tall, healthy black man expressing the physical joy that the white guy in the wheelchair can’t.
Werman: Far right politician, Jean-Marie Le Pen, saw Untouchable [French pronunciation] as a metaphor for France. France being the quadriplegic and needing the help of a youth from the suburbs, which for Lapin would just be an awful thing to happen, but Harvey Weinstein defends this movie. What’s his rationale?
Nesselson: Well you know, I know there’s a time limit in radio, but if there wasn’t, I would just stop and laugh for a good minute or two because Jean-Marie Le Pen has been criticizing the movie in a category of film criticism that’s one of my all time favorites, which is people who haven’t actually seen the film they’re denigrating. He hasn’t seen it, he just doesn’t like the sound of it, and 19 million French people must be wrong, but Harvey Weinstein, he seems quite sincere that he just loves the movie. He touched a chord and so in his enthusiasm, wanted to bring it to America. He not only wants to bring the original, he wants to do an English language remake which to me seems beyond redundant because one of the reasons the film works so well is that it really follows Hollywood’s screen writing technique and so it’s kind of already an American movie. It just happens to have exceptionally appealing French actors in it.
Werman: Lisa Nesselson with the film magazine, Screen International, speaking with us from Paris. Thanks a lot Lisa.
Nesselson: You’re welcome, bye-bye.
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