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Benoit Blanc loves living, he loves women, he loves daring. He is a famous businessman who suffers from stomach-ache. Fabiolini, a would-be actor, is a policeman and he too suffers from the same sickness. The two man face suffering in opposite ways: Benoit Blanc is optimistic while Fabiolini, always unsure of himself, is persuaded he is seriously ill. The two men meet by chance while doing a gastroscopy and become friends. After having known their real different conditions, they will change and will understand better their lives. Around them, other people, women and men, will see their lives changed, by chance, by love or solely by the life stream. Written by
Baldinotto da Pistoia
to believe in love and happiness (instructions leaflet)
I remember that this Claude Lelouch effort was surrounded by much hype when it reached the streets in 1996. In general, when they are theatrically released, the director's efforts follow this media pattern and it probably reveals his narcissistic side. But "Hommes Femmes Mode D'Emploi" caused a stir due to the presence of Bernard Tapie who managed the Marseille football club. I must acknowledge that he gave a thoroughly honorable performance for his first steps in cinema and Fabrice Lucchini gives him strong support which was the least he could do for a seasoned actor like him. I could say the same thing for the rest of the cast. The input from each actor is surely the sign that Lelouch loves his actors and is ready to give them presence on the screen and to maintain it.
This quality put aside, "Hommes Femmes Mode D'Emploi" is in the same league as virtually all Lelouch's efforts which preceded it. The director remains faithful to his favorite topics, notably fate and fortunes of life that link different characters. A little iffy editing, characters who enjoy philosophizing about life and time that go by in a positive way (see the sequence between Lucchini and Tapie in the car when talk about the French philosopher and mathematician Pascal) bestow the film with a naive, simplistic aura. Lelouch can't make the distinction between realism and fabulous. More serious, his freewheeling look at life leads him to irresponsibility. Pierre Arditi acts a doctor who declares his theory to Allessandra Martines that the brain is responsible for our aches. So, if you say to a healthy man that he is gravely ill and to a seriously ill man that he is in good health, morales should be inverted. Reality Mr. Lelouch is drastically different. A doctor has to tell the truth to his patients, no matter harsh it is.
And there's still this drawback from him to include superfluous sequences and a subplot which barely bring something to the bulk of the main plot (the sequences with the two tramps and the subplot featuring Claude Lelouch's daughter and Ticky Holgado's son who try hard to see again). As I've written it before, the cast makes up a bit for the unlikeliness and the dangerously naive side of the venture and Lelouch's virtuosity at camera is sometimes gripping but is it enough? If you're a Lelouch buff, you'll certainly want to include it in your DVD collection. The others, you can look away without remorse.
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