1 item from 1997
"The Eighth Day" (Le Huitieme Jour) carries on in the long tradition of films in which a hard-driving business type is softened by the love of a childlike being. Bearing more than a slight debt to "Rain Man", this film, for which Daniel Auteuil and Pascal Duquenne shared the best actor award at Cannes, has the accessibility and sentimentality to help it achieve significant art house grosses if audiences aren't too put off by its forced whimsy and surreal touches.
The second film from Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael, this effort is similar to his "Toto the Hero" in its fantastical visual imagery and stylistic flourishes. Auteuil plays Harry, a top-notch salesman whose command of his field is evident in the seminars he conducts. Naturally, his personal life is a shambles; his wife (Miou-Miou) has left him, and his relations with his two young children are strained. Harry is driving one stormy night when he suddenly comes upon Georges (Pascal Duquenne), a young man with Down syndrome who has just escaped from an institution. Harry attempts to return him to the authorities, but Georges sneaks into his car and won't leave. Eventually, Harry agrees to help him return to his family.
A series of misadventures ensue, as Georges predictably wreaks havoc in Harry's life. But the ever-controlled Harry begins to find something appealing in Georges' unrestrained emotions; the two form an unlikely bond and, as you can imagine, Georges help Harry to get back in touch with himself and restore his fractured relations with his family.
Director Van Dormael enlivens the overly sentimental film with his daring, if at times excessive, visual style, but it is not enough to offset the cloying nature of the story. Still, it's hard to resist entirely, thanks in large part to the two leads. The veteran Auteuil takes a by-now-stock part and invests it with his quietly powerful authority; his transformation by the film's end is indeed moving. And Duquenne, a theatrical performer with Down syndrome who was previously seen in "Toto the Hero", is profoundly moving, giving a performance in which he unleashes a barrage of raw emotions across the screen. Watching this id on display is practically a cathartic experience.
THE EIGHTH DAY (LE HUITIEME JOUR)
Director-screenplay Jaco Van Dormael
Producer Philippe Godeau
Cameraman Luc Drion
Editor Susana Rossberg
Original score Pierre Van Dormael
Harry Daniel Auteuil
Georges Pascal Duquenne
Georges' mother Isabelle Sadoyan
Company director Henri Garcin
Running time -- 118 minutes
No MPAA rating
1 item from 1997
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