Lucy Popescu

freedom to write, review, travel…

Film Review – The Big Picture

Posted by lucypopescu on July 28, 2011

France,

114 Minutes,

Dir: Eric Lartigau  

City lawyer, Paul Exben (Roman Duris), appears to have everything he could ever wish for – a great job, a beautiful wife, Sarah (Marina Fois), and two sons he loves. We soon realise, however, that their well-heeled existence is built on Paul’s compromise and Sarah’s self-sacrifice – as a consequence, they are both stagnating. Sarah has fallen for their neighbour, professional photographer Greg (Eric Ruf), and wants a divorce. After an unexpected moment of violence, Paul finds his life turned upside down. He becomes a fugitive, fakes his own death, and flees to Brittany, before finding a bolt hole in Montenegro where he discovers his own talent for photography.

Based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy, The Big Picture raises some interesting questions about identity and loss. Central to the film is the idea that it is only through losing everything that it becomes possible to recreate oneself, to rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of one’s past experience. Paul recovers his true identity – and rediscovers his creativity – only after losing everything he once held dear.

In the opening scenes in Paris, Eric Lartigau uses telephoto shots to blur the backdrops and throw Paul into sharp relief, suggesting he is disconnected from the landscape. Conversely, in Montenegro the use of a handheld camera and wide-angle shots ensure that Paul, now bearded and rugged, blends perfectly into the unmanicured scenery. In Paris, Paul had become desensitised, oblivious to those around him, now he can turn his camera on people and landscapes and see things for what they really are.

Although there is much to enjoy in Lartigau’s edgy, well-paced thriller, there are a few issues with its plotting and characterisation. While Duris is undoubtedly a charismatic and talented actor he seems too young to be cast as Paul. He comes into his own, in the second half of the film, as a man on the run from his past, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by his earlier incarnation as a successful lawyer and family man. At the beginning of the film, Paul’s close relationship with his co-director and mentor, Anne (Catherine Deneuve), is carefully built up but is then hastily forgotten when Paul goes on the run. The speed with which Paul establishes himself as a professional photographer also lacks credibility. Towards the end, the story becomes disjointed, as we jump from one location to another, and the film’s abrupt and ambivalent ending (a radical departure from the novel) left me feeling oddly detached.

First published in The Playground

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