Thursday, October 15, 2009

Anything Does Not Equal Everything

Pour elle (Anything For Her) (2008)
Directed by Fred Cavayé
Starring: Vincent Lindon, Diane Kruger

What Quentin Tarantino did so well with Kill Bill was to outline its basic premise (that simple but wonderfully effective title) and then build upon it, his sleeve stacked with stylish, hybrid aces that dazzled, added meat and scope. French thriller Anything For Her may as well be titled "Free Lisa", and there are no bones about what's at stake and what will go down -- a mere ten minutes in Julien sees his innocent wife carted off to jail and soon vows to break her out -- but that's where Anything For Her begins and really ends.

Most maddening is the film's rigidly basic structure, from the flatlining routine narrative to the lack of any notable supporting characters to the abstinent approach towards character development. Just moments after Lisa's murder conviction appears a flashback of the absurd circumstantial manner by which she is wrongly mistaken of the crime, obliterating any sense of mystery about the event or doubt about the motivations of either spouse. For a film about righting the course of justice there is hardly any exploration of guilt whatsoever, the possibility of landing the pair of them in prison and leaving their son essentially parentless (a very legitimate concern, if you ask me) discussed for all of five seconds. For all of the faults in Neil Jordan's erratic depiction of justice, The Brave One, it at least addressed this issue and encouraged us to read into its character's moral dilemna. The unconditional justification of Julien's actions is admittedly more akin to Tarantino's bride than Jordan's radio host, but Anything For Her is like cutting from the first scene of Volume 1 to the last scene of Volume 2, without the sparkling dialogue.

As for the escape plan Julien formulates it by covering the living room wall with the kind of diagrams and intricacies you'd see at a police station, investigative, thought-out. I honestly couldn't tell you how he managed to cover so much of the wall (maybe he doodled on half of it?) as there is precious little complexity to how he goes about cutting her loose. Only two brief scenes take place in the prison, the bulk of the escape action within a hospital that for all we know could be five, ten, fifty miles from the place. Thankfully the sequence allows for a brief sojourn into the kind of pace and tension you'd expect from a thriller, and is very well constructed. Any tension, however, is killed when a final frustrating act of fate tips the scales of justice to an emphatic clatter. C'est la vie.

Director Fred Cavayé was inexplicably Cesar-nominated for this film, less puzzlingly in the 'First Film' category. It's not terrible visually, but doesn't succeed in any cinematic area that I can think of, unable to flesh out an already limited number of souls, and absent of the kind of stylistic ambition necessary for a production based upon such a simple framework.

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