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So much about this very faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick's autobiographical mainstream novel _Confessions of a Crap Artist_ is right, that its shortcomings are all the more regrettable. Surprisingly, transplanting the story from 50's California to contemporary France is not one of them -- this works quite well. But the two central characters, the eponymous Jack and his sister Fay (here simply "Barjo" and "Fanfan") have been significantly changed, and not for the better. Barjo is much less edgy and marginal than Jack Isidore, making the sympathy he eventually earns for himself far less of a revelation. And Fay Hume, the irresistible, dynamic and dangerous tornado of a woman (based on Dick's third wife Anne) at the heart of the novel, is here dumbed down to just another suburban housewife -- it's hard to see why the Dick character, Michel, leaves his "perfectly good wife" for her. But the other characters are wonderfully drawn (particularly Fanfan's husband), and the source material is so very strong, that the film remains rewarding (with a particularly wonderful epiphany of an ending). 8/10.
Confessions of a Crap Artist was one of the few, if maybe the only one,
of Phillip K Dick's books that didn't rest in some kind of alternate
reality or future reality or some strange sci-fi landscape. It was semi
autobiographical, regarding a man who obsessive compulsive as he was
with his odd collection of items was obsessive with his sister and her
husband even more. This French adaptation maybe wasn't entirely
faithful to the source (from what I've heard, anyway, I haven't read
the entire book), but it feels through and through like a PKD work,
even with its lack of sci-fi platitude. If anything, this is like a Wes
Anderson film in some ways. Not simply for the pat base of comparison
that it is "quirky", although that is arguable. There's a lighthearted,
strange sense of comedy to it all, but there is also a dark dramatic
side to it, a level of tragedy of the everyday and mundane that
transforms even more as Charles watches his sister and her husband's
relationship disintegrate little by little through massive health
problems, jealousy, infidelity, and a big psychological power struggle.
The acting is all pretty top-notch too for such a low-budget French indie, with Hippolute Girradot as one of the more convincing "off" obsessive compulsives I've seen in any comedy/drama, with a look in his eyes that looks scarily as if he isn't acting. The married couples respectively (Anne Brochet is on the surface just a b****, but as the film goes further there's almost a sadness to her character that she reveals ever so slightly, and Richard Bohringer as the fed-up husband is terrific too) are truthful to the passive-aggressive and just normal tendencies that get mixed up in the downward spiral that is mostly apparent to the pessimistic "world is going to end" Charles, who types everything out on his typewriter as if it's the most important information possible. If it isn't an entirely successful movie it's because, frankly, Jerome Boivin isn't quite an accomplished director enough with his style. He takes a very fanciful manner with many of the typewriting sequences, and to the speed of the first section, which goes by pretty quickly, and also puts in an underwhelming catharsis at the end (it's the re-appearance of Charles that doesn't work, not the emotions that are sort of conveyed).
But there is a good deal that does work about Barjo, making it one of those underrated and under-seen treats that many PKD fans probably don't know about. It's very funny, for example, to see the sci-fi TV movie re-enactments, or just little things in behavior from Giradot, who will repeat an action another character may do, or will suddenly say something randomly to break the tension, and it will click just right. It falters from being great, and it's conceivable someone could do a better adaptation of the source, from what seems most like Dick's work anyhow. Yet it is a good find nonetheless, something to add to the "crap" collection, as a compliment I mean.
In 1989, Jérôme Boivin caused a sensation with his first film, Baxter.
His first effort showcased the story of a dog who observed the world of
human beings and was trying to find his place among them. Given that
fantastic isn't the forte of French cinema, this was a definitely
honorable success. Three years later, the filmmaker's sophomore effort
also introduces an offbeat character who understands the world in his
own special way.
Sourced from a semi-autobiographical novel written by Philip K. Dick, this adaptation doesn't belong to the sci-fi genre unlike Blade Runner (1982) by Ridley Scott or Total Recall (1990) by Paul Verhoeven. It has the look of a dramatic comedy with surrealist accents. However, the result is less conclusive than Baxter. Jérôme Boivin said in an interview that he felt more at ease with thorny subjects. But here, the balance between drama and comedy is very precarious. The film scores high when it deals with Hippolyte Girardot's character. The film has its share of meaty moments when "the madcap" elaborates his theories about Charles' family and big issues in the world. The problem is that we're much more interested by him than in the rest of the film when the interest dwindles. In the end, one can see the point in the evolution of the main character but it's not enough to be fully satisfied by the film.
After this film, Jérôme Boivin directed his career towards television where he signed TV movies.
i'm not sure if it is better to read the book or see the movie. but they surely are completely different experiences. the movie will taint your imaginings while reading the book.. but. i don't know. i just kinda like the movie. if you can handle some weirdness and are amused by random things. why not?
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