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Larry Mullen Jr.,
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Sujit R. Varma
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As we left the theatre someone inevitably said, `that was very French.' And so it was, or at least it was a movie that Hollywood would never have made. Washed-up bank robber meets retired French teacher and they become friends, each hankering after the other's lifestyle. The teacher is facing open-heart surgery, the robber the prospect of a dangerous bank job with three unreliable associates. All this set in a really boring small town in the Rhone Valley (filmed mainly in Annonoy with funding of course from the local Film Commission).
Yet it works. Watching the two principals, Jean Rochefort as the teacher and Johnny Hallyday as the robber is like watching Torvill and Dean perfect synchronisation, but with humour added. There's not a false move and the script is seamless it seems quite inevitable that such an improbable relationship could develop. Somehow we don't notice the improbabilities, such as the gang stealing a huge (by French standards) and rare BMW 740 for use as a getaway car the evening before the robbery from a car park in the centre of town, and making no effort to conceal it until the robbery at 10 heurs the next day.
Perhaps the relationship can be explained on the basis that Jean likes to talk and Johnny is content to listen. As they get to know each other Jean becomes quite concerned about his guest and Johnny, for his part, comes to admire his host. He even upbraids Jean's quite pleasant mistress for boring Jean with talk of her children's misdemeanours.
The film ends in a flurry of `maybe things might have been different if '. You can choose the alternative ending you like in fact, though the fantasy is more palatable that reality. Unlike Hollywood, French filmmakers trust their audience, and it is unlikely too many viewers will feel cheated here.
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