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|Index||21 reviews in total|
This new movie by Claude Chabrol is directly inspired by a true story.
The "Affaire Elf", named by the french oil-company, was a large
financial and political scandal where several top-level french
politicians where involved, such as Roland Dumas (ex foreign-affairs
minister) or Charles Pasqua (ex minister of interior). As in the true
story, a judge is investigating about some corruption in business
between a french major company and some African states. Most of the
characters in the movie are very similar to real persons involved in
the "Affaire Elf".
The movie focuses on two subjects: the first one is how the judge (Isabelle Huppert) becomes more and more addicted to the power she uses by sending powerful businessmen to jail; the second one is the wide-scale cynicalness of people involved in the scandal, used to play with public money and take advantage of this without seeing anything immoral.
A good movie, very funny because, as stated at the beginning "any similarity with real person or event would be, as it is said, fortuitousness".
Claude Chabrol return to his form with this masterpiece. I saw it at the Berlinale and the battle for tickets was worth it. Chabrol directs his actors in a very subtle way; it is not the main plot points that arouse your emotion, but small moments in the game between Charmant Killman and her opponents. Although all opponents are deeply bad people, Chabrol succeeds in giving them "things" that make them human beings and recognizable characters. Including all supporting and even one-line-characters. Watch Killmans Bodyguards, for example. Watch how Chabrol begins and ends scenes - very unusual. Watch the juxtaposition of Killmans life as a judge and her private life. I won't say much about the film itself, as it is good to know nothing about it before. It's a wise film, "La Piovra" in a cinema version (and much shorter), dealing with a topic that is most important in our western industrial countries - silent corruption. Most times the corruption theme in films bores, but Chabrol and Huppert make it a joy.
You don't HAVE to know the ELF-scandal to appreciate this, but it
helps. Not long ago I asked my french prof at the Alliance Francaise to
explain these funny french scandals (ELF through Clearstream 2) and he
had to abstain: too complicated, even for a native Frenchman.
The company is called FMG in the film: just as Kubrick went down a letter in the alphabet to go from IBM to HAL, Chabrol goes up a letter in the alphabet to go from ELF to FMG. Nice touch! On the other hand, the cigar in the cognac was a tad overdone, to my tastes.
Huppert confirms once again she is in a class all of her own. Rest of the cast, Berléand, Canto, Vernier, Duclos (!); all solid.
For the very hardest core of french movie buffs only: did anyone else recognize the two guards one bald, the other dark-haired as Chabrol's homage to Zardi et Attal who did numerous duo's like this for him and other directors? Best Chabrol in years, but my judgment may be a bit colored: after 30 Chabrols, this was the first I saw in a theater instead of on my couch.
In Paris, the obstinate and tough judge Jeanne Charmant-Killman
(Isabelle Hupert) investigates a corrupt and powerful corporation that
is embezzling public funds and its president Michel Humeau (François
Berléand) is arrested and sent to prison. She uses the hearing to
collect evidences against the board and lobbyists, and sends one by one
to prison. Meanwhile the group sabotages the brakes and the steering
wheel of her car forcing her to have the protection of two bodyguards.
Then they use a promotion to try to persuade her to stop her work,
moving her to a bigger office expecting competition and friction with
the also competent and honest judge Eryka (Marilyne Canto) but they
become close friends focusing the same objective. Meanwhile her
personal life is affected and she breaks off with her husband. When her
husband apparently jumps off his apartment, Jeanne has to come up with
"L'Ivresse du Pouvoir" is another great movie of Claude Chabrol with a plot that recalls the style of Costa-Gravas. The story is extremely realistic about corrupt corporations involved in embezzling public money and a judge that becomes obsessed in sending the responsible to prison and make a difference in the corrupt justice system. All the cast has stunning performances, but the awesome Isabelle Hupert has another top- notch performance contrasting her fragility with the strength of her character that unfortunately is a fictional judge. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Comédia do Poder" ("Comedy of the Power")
L'IVRESSE DU POUVOIR, which was oddly re-titled as A COMEDY OF POWER
for the North American market (I saw it under LUST FOR POWER on cable),
is a very good French flick about corruption in the government and a
magistrate's attempts to bring the bad guys to justice. The magistrate
is played by the sublime Isabelle Huppert. One could say that the film
can viewed as some sort of black comedy about how controlling the
corrupting qualities of power is ultimately futile. The film is played
straight. There are no big Hollywood moments in it which for many will
turn off most viewers. The film can be described as dry. Very dry.
There are no mushy sentimental moments. No sex. No violence. Very
little swearing. The dramatics are very low key. Heck, the music is
almost non-existing. The direction is so minimalistic that it creates a
tension of sorts in that I expected the director to shock us with
something really bad just waiting to happen at any moment and ready to
derail the whole controlled tone of the film.
The dialogue is spoken quickly and even though I understand French, the subtitles were good in keeping track with the rapid fire exchanges.
Aside from the assured direction, the main reason to watch L'IVRESSE DU POUVOIR is Isabelle Huppert's laser sharp performance. She's so good and direct, not a wasted moment or emotion in her entire performance. It's something to behold. Watching the petite woman, with her red gloves and purse, corralling all these corrupt folks, is unforgettable and it's what remains in your head days after seeing the film.
A very satisfying movie that's a nice change from the usually over-the-top approach most films take these days.
Jan 7, 2007
In Comedy of Power, Isabelle Huppert plays Jeanne Charmant-Killman, a driven French investigating judge who is committed to rooting out systemic corporate corruption and bribery. As a judge and a woman, she finds herself lined up against entrenched old-boy attitudes and an acceptance of corporate corruption shared by most of the powerful older male characters including those in a position to influence her career.
Comedy of Power asks whether a woman in a position of power and influence can be effective and also have a life. Huppert is superb as the skinny workaholic Charmant-Killman (is this last name an intentional pun, I wonder). She has no time to eat or sleep, little or no empathy or tendresse and no time for her husband. It is difficult to decide where Chabrol comes out on the question of whether she is admirable for her determination and courage or despicable for her ambition and callousness. Perhaps, in just posing the question in such stark terms, Chabrol ultimately displays his own prejudice.
At the same time that Comedy of Power examines these somewhat cerebral questions, it also manages to keep us on the edge of our seat (not on a Hitchcockian level, but enough to make us flinch when the doorbell rings).
All in all, this was a very good movie.
I confess right from the beginning to being a fan of Isabelle Huppert. I am also a student of Claude Chabrol films. I say 'student', because his films are intellectual and challenging in nature. This film is a film of our times. And its themes are also timeless. The flawed protagonist, Huppert, lives shamelessly in front of the camera. She is very human, as well as idealistic. And her idealism is personal and competitive, as well as moralistic. Chabrol has captured grand corruption in a simple narrative about people alone and in conversation. Never slick, always homely and familiar. Isabelle Huppert's performance is tempered and unusually restrained. Her aptitude for endowing her characters with mannerism and eccentricity by using simple gestures and facial expressions is in full play here. This is a film that requires effort to appreciate, but it leaves you feeling quite full.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's a lovely tongue-in-cheek disclaimer at the beginning of this film to the effect that neither the events nor the characters depicted are based on real people or events, especially, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, the Elf scandal which rocked France lo, these few moons ago. No film of course should presuppose a previous knowledge on the part of the audience; the average film-goer outside France will have little or no knowledge of Elf and the French Government Ministers involved in corruption just as the average film-goer will know of Marie Antoinette only that she once said 'let them eat cake' and by coincidence Sophia Coppola's take on Marie Antoinette opens here, in London, tomorrow, whilst L'Ivresse du pouvoir is showing as part of the London Film Festival so it's a case of how do you like your corruption, in the 20th century heart of France or 17th century suburban Paris, that's about Versailles of it. What matters in either case is the quality of the film-making; is it good, bad or indifferent. I've yet to see the Coppola but the Chabrol is out of the right bottle. Not a lot happens dramatically despite a nobbled car and a leap from a window, it's basically cat and mouse between Huppert's incorruptible judge and the highly corruptible ministers/big business she's attempting to nail - if she IS incorruptible Huppert is not above getting high on her power to imprison some of the fattest cats with their whiskers in the cream (yet again a title has been badly translated; the literal meaning of the French title is the drunkenness of power or, more colloquially, drunk on power) which makes the French title more clear. Anybody who expects Huppert to turn in even a mediocre performance is seriously stupid and here she is right on top of her game well supported by Francois Berleand, who only a couple of years ago played her husband in Les Soeurs fachees, and here proves, as they used to say in Zenda, an opponent worthy of her steel. Go see, trust me.
... could've been better. At least that's what I think. This movie does
start with a phenomenal pace and you get sucked into the story, but
then after a little while it drags and you're wondering where the
passion of the first few minutes has gone. I wondered that and you
Let's take a look at the actors though, because they are doing a fabulous job here. And the movie will stand of fall for you (the viewer), with your perception of Jeanne Charmant-Killman (played by Isabelle Huppert). If you don't like her, than you will hate this movie.
Despite all that, this is still an engaging film, that has a few surprises up it's sleeves, so it's up to you, if this genre is something worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Saturday June 17, 9:30pm The Neptune
An invitation to the home of a great chef requires no knowledge of the menu beforehand; it will surely be a culinary delight. The latest offering from the great French filmmaker Claude Chabrol, A Comedy of Power (L'lvresse du pouvior) is just such a feast. A powerful French magistrate is on the prowl against corporate corruption to the occasional dismay of her less than honest superiors. Issabelle Huppert stars as Jeanne Charmant-Killman, driven by her work at the cost of her personal life and ultimately her safety. Chabrol allows his powerful and richly composed camera-work to obsess on this exquisite actress throughout the film, who remains as remarkably beautiful now as she was in Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate. As she blithely moves from office to home an air of tense anticipation builds with the constant looming threat of retaliation from the men of power she is morally charged with pursuing.
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