Saturday, 18 June 2011

point blank (d fred cavayé, w cavayé & lemans)

Someone somewhere must have known when allocating the English Language title of this film that it was thereby alluding to another film made in the late 60s by John Boorman. Perhaps it was a marketing exec, reasoning that this might drag in punters through association, subliminal or otherwise. If that is the case, one can only say, as ever, don't listen to the marketing men. Next they'll be calling any old remake 'The Italian Job', perpetrating the spurious notion that it's on a par with the original, etc etc.

It's a curious aspect of French cinematic culture that they love a corny old policier. It's a fierce strand that has run through the country's cinema over the course of fifty years, perhaps more. Godard played around with it, and before that Becker and Melville created their classics. Much of Chabrol's work is crime drama, and in recent years there's been the likes of Mesrine, various Audiard movies, Tavernier movies... The list goes on. Much of this is self-consciously inspired by or in reaction to US culture. It's almost as though there's a perceived need to provide a counterweight to the notion that the French are a bunch of arty, philosophical types, who make noodly films and refuse to invade Iraq.

Cavayé's film belongs to this tradition. Unfortunately, when the French ape the US, like almost all apeing of other cultures, it doesn't do anyone any favours. Cavayé appears in Point Blank to be attempting to make a rollicking, action adventure movie with twists and turns galore, a kind of on-speed version of 24, only with a mature 'adult' relationship at its core. The consequences are not hard to guess. This is like a steak-frites cooked by Macdonalds, with neither the horrific trashiness of the latter (something which at his best, Tarantino pulled off) or the quality control of the former.

Of course, the French crime dramas which work are those which are unafraid to drop in a dash of philosophy/ introspection. Le Samourai is a small masterpiece; The Prophet is perhaps a little self-consciously brilliant, but has its particular brand of brilliance none-the-less. The French can do crime drama; they just need to keep to their own titles and inject it with a French sensibility (whatever that means) rather than a heavy dose of ketchup.

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