Volume 78 / Number 8 - July 23 - 29, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“Tell No One” (+)

An outstanding French thriller. The movie opens with a loving couple, Dr. Alex Beck (Francois Cluzet) and his wife, Margot (Marie-Josee Croze), going for a late-night skinny dip in the lake near their country retreat. After their swim, Margot returns to the shore. When Alex hears her scream he swims back to the beach where he is assaulted and passes out. Waking from a coma three days later, he learns that his wife was murdered and her body was identified by his father-in law, Jacques (Andre Dussollier), a retired police officer. Alex is the prime suspect but is never prosecuted due to insufficient evidence.

The story resumes eight years later when the case is reopened. Two more bodies have been discovered near the site where Margot was killed along with items linking Alex to her death. Several subplots begin to unfold involving numerous characters including Alex’s lawyer, Elysabeth (Nathalie Baye), and his closest friend, Helene (Kristin Scott Thomas), who is the lover of his sister, Anne (Marian Hands). One colorful character is Bruno (Gilles Lellouche) whose hemophilic son Alex treated at the hospital. When Alex is chased through crowded streets and across congested highways by the police, he is rescued by Bruno and his friends, most of whom appear to be young Muslims living in Paris housing projects who are unable to find employment. Two additional characters are Gilbert Neuville (Jean Rochefort), a wealthy member of the French gentry, and his son, Philippe (Guillaume Canet), who is a pedophile attracted to both boys and girls.

I love French films noir, and this one is no exception. “Tell No One” is based on a novel by an American author, Harlan Coben, the setting of which is the United States. If the movie had been filmed in an American city and the characters spoke English, I probably would have found it less captivating. I might have said there are too many holes in the plot, too many subplots and that it would have been better if the mystery had unraveled itself on the screen rather than be explained at the end by one of the characters. The fact that the movie takes place in the suburbs of France made it more intriguing for me and, as a result, I am probably less critical of its flaws. Overall, it is well done and the acting is superb. Be sure to see it. (In French, with English subtitles.)

HS said: Having lured EIK to see “Wall-E,” which he loathed and I admired, I could not resist his determination to see “Tell No One,” which he described as a French film noir. I think of films noir as being shot in dark cellars late at night, with indistinguishable subtitles. I was pleasantly surprised by this film, shot in color, mostly in daylight, with fine cinematography. I liked the fact that the protagonist was a pediatrician; so is my wife and my son the doctor. The picture works better once you suspend judgment on the totally contrived and bizarre plot. Admire the characters, the hero’s stamina at running, the view of a Muslim banlieue (comparable to a housing project mainly inhabited by immigrants). Don’t count on seeing the young couple skinny dipping, the screen was almost as dark as the evening. “Tell No One” is a visual feast, a guided tour and a French lesson. It also depicts Jews favorably, which is unusual today. How early can you figure out who the bad guy is?”

“The Last Mistress” (-)

This film is a bore. When I arrived at the theater, I met an old friend from city government who had just seen the movie. In response to my question about the picture she grinned and replied, “It is a very dirty movie,” and then shrugged her shoulders. The “very dirty” was a reference to the intimate scenes and the shrug indicated to me that it was not very good. The film does indeed contain a number of explicit sexual scenes, but they are totally passionless, uninvolving and, sin of all sins, boring.

So what’s the plot? A young handsome Frenchman of the gentry, Ryno de Marigny (Fu’ad Ait Aattou), is a well-known lover with many conquests. On the eve of his wedding to a wealthy, demure girl, Hermangarde (Roxane Mesquida), he is asked by her grandmother, the Marquis de Flers (Claude Sarraute), to tell her of his life which, incomprehensibly, he does in great detail.

Through flashbacks, we learn that Ryno was told of a young Spanish passionate beauty, La Vellini (Asia Argento), married to an older man, Sir Reginald (Nicholas Hawtrey). When first pointed out to him in her coach, he commented that she was ugly, but in quick time, they became infatuated with one another and their fiery relationship began.

Believe me, the touted sensuality is totally missing, notwithstanding the many coupling positions depicted. The most entertaining part of the film involves an amusing, elderly couple, the Comtesse d’Artelles (Yolande Morequ) and the Vicomte de Prony (Michael Lonsdale). Like a Greek chorus, they comment on the acts of the lovers, and their performances and droll dialogue are very amusing.

“The Last Mistress” had great possibilities, but those looking for entertainment and vicarious thrills will have too look elsewhere. (In French, with English subtitles).

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