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The golden age of the film noir in French cinema was in the forties and
fifties with two unforgettable names: Julien Duvivier and Henri-Georges
Clouzot who have left films noir of first quality. Then, the high level
persisted with Claude Chabrol in the late sixties. But nowadays, this
cinematographic genre survives mainly by ripping off the models of
American cinema. Here, with Cédric Klapisch in charge of this "ni pour
ni contre (bien au contraire)" (2003), we can expect to a glimmer of
hope to lend the film noir its credibility again.
We are a little surprised to find this terrific film-maker, a specialist of social comedies, trying his hand at a genre he has never broached. I'm a huge fan of his cinema, but here I can't make up my mind whether this first foray into an unknown domain was beneficial for him. It left me an impression of mixed although Klapisch's cinematographic writing is as good as usual. I will try to develop my own point of view about this film.
Firstly, Klapisch has always been fond of films noir and "ni pour ni contre (bien au contraire)" was a project which was close to his heart and it nearly never saw the light of day (he had written the first part of the film and then left it high and dry because he had difficulties to write the sequel. In the meantime, not to stay inactive, he decided to make "l'auberge espagnole" (2002) and after that took back "ni pour ni contre..." and managed to finish it). It is quite easy to detect Klapisch's major influences in his work: "Goodfellas" (1990) by Martin Scorsese, "Asphalt Jungle" (1949) by John Huston and Jean Pierre Melville's cinema.
Cédric Klapisch's film is divided in two quite patchy parts. Let's begin with the first part: it is quite decent although it is not free from shortcomings. One one hand, there's humor which enables to make less alarming the seriousness of certain situations and on the other hand, the film gets off to a good start with a conclusive introduction about the main characters in their respective social backgrounds. It's also a pleasure to see the director taking out again weapons he wonderfully masters such as the suggestion and what is left unsaid (concerning the character Katy, we can feel that she's quite unhappy in her life just by looking her dull face and by the way, Marie Gillain has never been so beautiful in this film). Then, Klapisch still handles in a clever way his camera: to emphasize on the fact that Katy feels very lonely in her life, the camera leaves from her face and stops in front of the building in which she lives. As for the gang, it avoids as much as possible caricature. The director makes a both funny and dangerous portrait. Of all the members, Zinedine Soualem plays best his game. You have to see him giving lessons of dancing. Nevertheless, the gang's life is partly based on stereotypes, notably when they wallow in money and easy life.
But things go wrong in the second part when the movie tells the careful preparations of the stickup and the quite violent consequences of the operation. From here onwards, the director wants to be more serious, more suspenseful and it brings about both a quite rough changing of tone, a serious lack of cohesion with the rest and it harms the unity of the film as a whole. Let's also regret an alternate editing of quite bad taste. It's a shame because it is in this second part that the most representative elements of the film noir are exploited: nocturnal scenes, disturbing scenery, sticky atmosphere. And the end is successful because it is immoral. It also echoes one sequence of the beginning of the film when Katy scratches a "Banco" card.
In the end, we've got a courageous but rather failed attempt from Klapisch to renew the film noir. That said, if take on account the fact that the real good French films noir become very rare, "ni pour ni contre (bien au contraire)" deserves indulgence in spite of the slight disappointment we can feel at the end the projection. As for Cédric Klapisch, let's hope he will make up for it with the sequel of "l'auberge espagnole", "les poupées russes" which will be released in June 2005.
The title of this magnificent film from Kaplish; refers to a timid young
country girl that helps a group of gangster in a heist in Paris (France)
order to get some money.
She immediately becomes the gang's mascot and starts enjoying the
and commodities of the easy life.
However, when the gang runs out of money, she is offered to participate in an ambitious job so dangerous, she refuses and resorts to small robberies alone to make money. After a while, the risk grows higher, and realizing that she can't keep going alone, decides return to the gang and participates in the big plan for a big sum of money.
Of course, things do not go as expected and the aftermath is violence, death and betrayal.
After `The Spanish Inn' a social comedy/satire about the new Europe and its different cultural clashes; I never expected, Cedric Klapish (the director) could deliver such a perfectly timed thriller . The first third of the movie is an almost romantic criminal caper, that emotionally involves the spectators with the gangsters and the girl. This perfectly generates a big tension and suspense on the second third (the big heist); but, to my (and others people) surprise, on the third part characters become un-masked and any romantic or sympathetic feeling get lost in a spiral of betrayal and violence.
Marie Gillian; with her innocent face is absolutely credible as the innocent heroine that grows to become cold and ambitious criminal. The same could be said of Vincent Elbaz as the gallant gang boss and the rest of the cast.
The movie ends in a very politically incorrect way (this is a French movie), but you will be very satisfied.
Not at all a film noir, Klapisch's "Ni pour ni contre" is a run
off-the-mill "heist", "coup du siècle" movie, with no original
standpoint. The story is a poor justification for a series of
beautifully filmed, very bright, colorful and sunny photographic scenes
that parallel the aesthetics of this "more than perfect" gang, their
associates and their "Appat" film heroine.
There is no justification for the use of a camera in the first "coup" scène, other than the set up of how this very particular innocent girl is being recruited by this band of criminals. Other incoherent sequences appear through the movie that one doesn't get to criticize for fear of sounding too realistic nowadays. Contrarily to other heist movies, nothing goes unusually wrong after the robbery to justify the mess up that ensues.
The attempts at building a camaraderie between the gangsters also falls short and shows clearly that too many people were involved writing this movie.
All and all, this movie is Klepisch's take at a genre he never tried before (american crime movies, not film noirs by any means, and surely not thrillers or polars), and he succeeds less-than-averagely.
This is the story of an ordinary young camerawoman who lives a boring life in Paris. She happens to meet a band of gangsters she becomes friend with and starts living their life between hold-ups, sex and money. Marie Gillain is very touching in that role where she managed to be thrilled by this exciting and dangerous life and at the same time not affected at all by the criminal nature of her acts. This movie could have just been another gangster story and this is exactly where you're being tricked into a totally different outcome. Very simple and even maybe a little bit silly, her role as a gangster is interesting and well played. The more you watch the more you start wondering why she is doing all that for and who she truly is. A stunning movie on a subject difficult to deal with if you don't want to be too cliché. A must see
Cedric Klapisch is one of those curious directors who clearly has a lot of talent but rarely makes particularly good films. Certainly Ni Pour, Ni Contre (Bien Au Contraire) is the kind of film it's easy to film to be ambivalent about - it's too well made to hate but at the end of the day too average to love. Marie Gillain is the bland, bored TV camerawoman who drifts into crime and discovers her bad side after being hired to record a robbery by Vincent Elbaz's crook (why we never find out). Finding a surrogate family with his second/third generation immigrant gang (Zinedine Soualem, Simon Abkarian and Dimitri Storoge) the first half of the film has a good time showing them living the good life with a couple of none-too-subtle nods to Goodfellas along the way, but the money runs out and as it does the inevitable big job to set them up for life beckons just as inevitably as it will all go wrong in the last reel. To be fair the film does a fairly decent job at deglamourising them and showing how small and frustrated their lives can be when they can't buy a slice of the high life, but the botched heist and its aftermath still feels as if it belongs to a different movie. It's not quite a crime does not pay moral, more that crime does pay if you're prepared to throw morality to the wind and be more ruthless than your friends, but that doesn't stop it all feeling too generic: the heist goes wrong and people die because that's what's expected to happen in this kind of movie. The performances are all good, the characters well drawn and Klapisch has an incredible eye for the scope frame that ensures some great visuals - the Carlton Hotel in Cannes has never looked so striking - yet it's never enough to hide the fact that behind the style and professionalism there's not a great deal of substance and nothing we haven't seen before many times. Not great, not bad, but on the other hand worth a look if you're in an undemanding mood.
Bit of a disappointment really - after a good start in Goodfellas mode
(where the anti-hero's life of crime is linked to his love of good
shoes) and an initially mildly intriguing set-up that never pays off,
the film just gradually flat lines. It isn't terrible, but it isn't
particularly good. Performances are fine but not outstanding and the
plot ticks along on the usual robbery goes wrong lines without ever
threatening any surprises. The biggest surprise is a bit part for Diane
Kruger as a hooker, much more attractive here than in Troy.
The one thing which does impress is Klapisch's Scope framing. This is a man who really knows how to fill the wide, wide screen, and he throws in the greatest shot of Cannes' Carlton Hotel ever. It's just a shame that the script never rises to the level of visual invention.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've never really been completely sold on Cedric Klapish and L'Aubage Espanol was a major disappointment, on the other hand I've always like Marie Gillain and polars so a combination of the two had to be worth a couple of hours of my time. You need to get past the initial premise that a violent petty criminal needs a professional camera operator to record a heist and that he finds one so easily in the shape of Marie Gillain who offers only token resistance and quickly abandons any search for a moral compass she may have been engaged in and is happy to become absorbed by the 'gang'. There's a half-hearted attempt to portray a couple of the older members as more or less part-time hoods - one is a choreographer, one a restaurateur but it is, of course, leading inexorably toward the 'big' caper that will end in tears though Klapish tempers this with a twist that would never have been allowed back in the day. Watchable but only once.
Ni Pour, Ni Contre is a very good film noir, witch combines agreeably
humour, suspense and drama. The Klapisch Touch is there, but it's also in
kind completely different for what we knew him before, like Chacun
son Chat, or L'Auberge Espagnole. For example, the last scene of break-in
so intense, that I was really afraid for the characters. Some movies do
leave you any impressions, but with Klapisch, the emotions and the
seizes the spectator.
Side of the distribution, the actors are great, especially Vincent Elbaz, who is great and credible, Zinedine Soualem, who try to stay in the right side, and Marie Gillain at the same time strong and fragile who can be seen in a quasi similar role in L'Appat directed by Bertrand Tavernier.
A really good Polar, a must see movie...
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