The Intouchables(French ,2012)
Dir:Olivier Nakache,Eric Toledano
A rich aristocratic Frenchman Philippe played by Francois Clouzet, who is quadriplegic is perpetually looking for a caregiver.He is a tough cookie and taking care of his fragile health and erratic temperament mean that most don’t last more than a week.We see interviews happening.There is a train of inept candidates even we know won’t last long.They already see Philippe as a dead man. In the middle of all this, in walks a giant of a black man.He is well built and full of raw energy.He does not want the job, just a signature attesting that he tried to find a job so he can qualify for social security.He is out on parole, a stock character from the Paris housing projects, the grim underbelly of which has been superbly documented in La Haine.
We know immediately he will be hired.Its an immutable law of films, even if the posters and trailer have not given it away already.What follows are a set of adventures the two embark upon turning conventional wisdom on its head. Driss played by the gregarious Omar Sy, has immense physical energy and a love of life that is infectious, he has a mind of his own and is not cowed by the splendor of the mansion in which he finds himself in.Of course he tests the springiness of the mattress and practices his bathroom singing in a luxurious gold rimmed bathtub but those are not too important for him. Philippe indulges him, despite the protests of his friends, he trusts his instincts, probably his last act of rebellion against life which has suddenly been so unfair. The two are polar opposites but begin to share a bond.Phillip likes the fact that Driss does not treat him like a vegetable but a real human being even to the extent of making fun of his disability.
If all this sounds like a series of cliches from many other films you are right.But then, cinema thrives on telling the same story again and again because our lives too follow predictable patterns, no matter how hard we try to assert our individuality.What ultimately matters is whether cinema is able to sweep us away in its arc and its joy of telling that story and makes us forget our own dull life. This is what this film does, takes an old premise and infuses raw energy in the narrative.Sy dominates the screen like a giant, his love of life and his refusal to become a part of the vicious cycle of the Parisian immigrant suburban housing estates which are a sad model of exclusion and ghettoisation, sets him apart.
As I enjoyed his love of life, his optimism and his love for music I was reminded of my years in Africa.That wonderful land is full of people who are still rooted in nature in a fundamental way, whose DNA has not been corrupted by years of exploitation at the hands of colonialists and the brutal selfishness of its current leaders.To see Africans dance in their elements is one of the joys of being alive.The ability to feel music in the bones and allow your body to move spontaneously is their special gift.We get a demonstration of this in a wonderful scene where Driss is bored by even the most rousing pieces of western classical music.He is able to pin everything down to being the score for either an ad or even the music for Tom and Jerry.This has Phillippe in splits. And then he decides to give them a flavor of what tickles his musical bone.They way he moves his body is a sight to behold.He truly dances like nobody’s watching.
Both of them have their own set of complications, and we are skillfully introduced to their back stories.But the action on the foreground remains a celebration of life and maintains an irreverent tone consistently. The Intouchables provides us an escape from our self imposed boundaries on how to live and successfully rises above its own formulaic structure.The supporting cast is composed mostly of the other staff in the household who are sweet, respectful and brimming with humanity.
Buried beneath the surface is a comment on the widespread riots that happened in the Paris suburbs in 2005, 2007 and 2012 and engulfed the entire country.This was mostly an outpouring of the pent up rage at the racism and social disparity in French society which is still coming to terms with the excesses of its colonial past and the immigrant population from its Francophone African colonies.
This film is currently rated 8.6 on 10 on IMDB(126,000 votes!!) and is among the top 250 film of all time with a rank of 60.This is certainly not the 60th best film of all time, not even the top 250 on any serious movie buffs list but the rating is a testimony to its tremendous ability to charm, entertain and consistently amuse.It is Frances official entry for the Oscars is the second highest grossing French film of all time with box office earnings in excess of $300 million.Its a great film to watch during the holiday season. While a French comedy drama is something most of us are unlikely to reach out for, its a great film to relax with.
I went to see this film with my wife and the viewing was made more fun by this man who was sitting 2 rows ahead of us.There are quite a few LOL moments and this man’s full throated high pitched laughter will remain with me for a long time.Singapore has been rated the least emotional country in one poll and the its people the most miserable on earth in another.These polls always leave me scratching my head, but they may contain a grain of truth at times.Singapore surely needs more blokes like this who know how to laugh and don’t care a damn if others are watching.
#The Intouchables is currently showing in Singapore
Categories: World Cinema