8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
E. Lee Zimmerman
- Published on Amazon.com
We've all experienced the desire to disappear. For whatever reason, we've entertained the idea of simply pulling up our stakes, packing it in, and vanishing from the face of the Earth or, more likely, those we know so well. No, that doesn't mean that we don't love them; nor does it even possibly imply we've done anything wrong. Life wears us down, and, occasionally, we long for escape. This reality only underscores the very human desire to sometimes merely assume a completely anonymous existence - one devoid of greater meaning or purpose - all with the hope of `fitting in' brand new.
However, if we had a legitimate reason to withdraw from the society of which we're a participant, there's certain a `right way' and a `wrong way' to go about it. What's chiefly on display in THE BIG PICTURE is a life lesson about the lesser risks and greater dangers of doing it without adequate preparation.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and character. If you're the kind of person who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I'd encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you're accepting of a few modest hints at `things to come,' then read on ...)
Paul Exben (played convincingly by Romain Duris) is a successful Parisian lawyer who's "living the dream" (or so he thought); his wife Sarah (Marina Foïs) and their two children have only started to wear on his real-world sensibilities, and his boss Anne (the lovely Catherine Deneuve, in too short an appearance) is about to retire from the business for medical reasons that would leave him completely in charge of the firm. However, Paul senses something isn't quite right at home. Realizing his wife is having an affair with their neighbor Greg - a photojournalist with a carefree, unpredictable lifestyle - the lawyer confronts the man. After Paul accidentally kills him, he assumes his identity and completely vanishes. The question remains: can he become someone new, or will he be forever haunted by his true past?
Based on a novel by Douglas Kennedy, THE BIG PICTURE is a lean and muscular exploration of the psychological dangers of creating a new identity, especially one tied to closely to elements of one's concealed biography. In reality, Paul ends up living two lives simultaneously - the one he's suppressing (his own) as well as the one he's stolen (Greg's). The script smartly achieves a balance between truth and deceit when it becomes clear that circumstances are spiraling out of control despite the man's best efforts to keep them `under his thumb,' and, if he's not careful, Paul will ruin not only his own life but also those he comes into contact with forever.
Also, there's a brilliant visual metaphor at the heart of PICTURE, and that's the fact that both Paul and Greg shared a singular fascination: photography. Whereas Greg's passions we never anything special, it's established fairly early on that Paul has great talent - a true eye for detail - and it's this personal obsession that drives him closer and closer to the brink of ruin. As we all know, a single picture is worth a thousand words; pictures tell stories - not only those of the photographer and his (or her) subjects, but also, due to the nature that photos are highly interpretive as art, they inspire tales of the viewers. Therein lies the beauty of having our narrator in peril: he spends much of the second half of this picture snapping candid photos of people in real-life situations, all the while desperately trying to conceal the truth of his own.
As you may guess, this hobby ends up playing into Paul's unraveling, so much so that he finds himself on the run once more, this time facing even greater peril. Odds are, PICTURE may not go where you expected, but, once it arrives, it still presents a sight to behold. It's filled with some nice performances - even from its lesser players - as a modern-day fairy tale reminding us to think twice before we leap.
THE BIG PICTURE is produced by Europa Corp., TF1 Films Production, CiBy 2000, Canal+, CineCinema, and Cofinova 6. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled through MPI Pictures. For those of you needing to know, this is a French-language picture with English-subtitles; if foreign films are not always to your tastes, I'd still give this one a spin if it interests you as the second half of the flick has a great amount of English-spoken scenes (won't spoil it more than that). As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds tremendous. Additionally, I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't mention that the film was nominated for the `Best Adapted Screenplay' Award at the 2011 Cesar Awards (France). Lastly - as is often the case with imports - there are no special features to speak of.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Much of THE BIG PICTURE plays out relatively slowly. Paul's story - the state of his personal and professional affairs - takes some time to establish in the first half. Some might call it slow; I prefer to call it `reflective' and `French.' But, once the stakes are raised, it's clear that he's only one option left: run. He does the unimaginable - he abandons a cherished existence, even one that'll require some re-invention, all in favor of salvaging what's left of his family and hoping to start anew elsewhere. The problem remains that who we are is never quite far from how we live, and there's risk waiting for him around every corner.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MPI Home Video provided me with an advance DVD screener copy of THE BIG PICTURE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Paul Exben (Roman Duris) has it all, a lovely wife, great job, bags of cash, great home and yet he seems a bit insecure. Catherine Deneuve plays his boss Anne, she has a terminal illness and is about to leave her controlling share in the company to him. So he is about to gain even more albeit with the loss of a caring friend.
He loves his two children and put on acts of capriciousness to endear him to them, which seems to have the opposite effect on his wife. Then he starts to notice subtle changes in his wife's behaviour; Sarah (Maria Fois) seems to be on a short fuse when ever he is around and more relaxed around a certain other man. This man is a jobbing photographer Gregoire; Paul is a rich amateur who had once held ambitions of being a good photographer himself once upon a time.
Then her sudden new taste for New Zealand `Cloudy Bay' and long lunch engagement gets him more suspicious. Things come to a head at a dinner party where one sauvignon blanc too many leads him to act the oaf. The following day spur of the moment decision start a series of events that even `The A Team' would be hard pushed to put right.
This is a well crafted drama with an under lying current of tension that lends more to a thriller than a life tale. The ever presence of photography runs through out and acts like a thread tying all the disparate parts of the story together.
It is beautifully shot too, with some almost iconic shots and great use of scenery and space. The acting is all well above average and Roman Duris does a particularly good performance. Director Eric Lartigan has made a beautifully filmed, challengingly framed and original piece of cinema. Some may find the plot a bit of a stretch, but it is dealing with a situation that few people would ever find them selves in and I found it very entertaining.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Truthfully, I would watch Romain Duris in just about anything. When you add the great Catherine Deneuve and promise me a twisty thriller, I'm in absolute heaven. Once again, though, I've been fooled by the marketing of the French film "The Big Picture." The movie certainly employs elements that might effectively be utilized in a thriller, but suspense is not the primary aim of the film's screenplay. The critical blurbs reference both Patricia Highsmith (for obvious reasons that I won't discuss in any depth) and Alfred Hitchcock, and perhaps the first half of the movie steers you in that direction. But the principle themes developed in the more languid second half (a huge stretch of the movie is virtually wordless) are more in line with an introspective character study. When situations force Duris to embrace a new path in life, he comes to understand just what was lacking in the past. It's an interesting notion, handled quite well.
Duris plays a successful lawyer with a seemingly perfect life. He has wealth, high profile clients, a business partner who wants to put him in charge, two cute kids, and a supportive wife. To all appearances, he is living the dream. But the veneer of normalcy and happiness starts to crumble when he becomes suspicious that his wife is discontent. Even as he struggles to rebuild intimacy, he doesn't want to face the evidence in front of him. When unexpected tragedy strikes, however, he is thrust headfirst into a nightmare from which there may be no escape. But a careful plan sets him on a new course. And in the least likely way, he will begin to understand just what is important in life and learn to become the man he was meant to be. But his grasp on this new realization is tenuous as well. Can he hold on? And should he?
Duris, all shaggy hair and sullen looks, is terrific here. The movie is basically divided into two distinct sections with different demands, and Duris balances the needs of each part perfectly. Deneuve, however, doesn't have much to do in a cameo as Duris' boss and friend. If you don't come to "The Big Picture" expecting nail biting suspense, mystery and action--there is a lot to recommend the film. My suggestion, though, is NOT to read the movie's description or any of the Blu-ray/DVD case. They give away all the film's major surprises. "The Big Picture" should best be appreciated by letting it unfold at its own pace, with little to no expectations. It has some pivotal moments and plot points that are completely ruined by its own marketing. KGHarris, 3/13.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
"The Big Picture" ("L'homme qui voulait vivre sa vie") is a French adaptation of the book by American novelist Douglas Kennedy. Paul Exben (Romain Duris) is a high-priced Parisian lawyer married to Sarah (Marina Foïs), with two young children and a posh home in the suburbs. Paul gave up his passion, photography, to make money in the family law firm, now owned primarily by Anne (Catherine Deneuve), a friend of his deceased parents. But Anne has given Paul some bad news, and Sarah is increasingly disinterested in her husband since he adopted a pragmatic approach to life. Just as Paul tries to rekindle their stale relationship, he suspects that Sarah may be having an affair with a local photographer Grégoire Kremer (Eric Ruf). When an accident changes everything, Paul decides to pursue a new life, reluctantly but also with a sense of recapturing the freedom he lost.
There isn't anything particularly bad about "The Big Picture". There just isn't anything interesting either. I've seen this plot too many times before. I had a sense of déja vu while watching it. There is a twist toward the end, but the writers drop the ball and cop out on the ending. The situation with Anne feels contrived and is superfluous to the story. I didn't buy the hotshot lawyer with a permanent 5 o'clock shadow and responsibilities that seem limited to babysitting a trust fund baby with a video game addiction. As for the main plot points, the film tries too hard to make petty problems out to be serious existential crises. One might argue that Paul has real problems after the accident, but not before. Mostly it's just predictable and mediocre. Mostly in French with optional English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles. The MPI 2013 DVD includes a theatrical trailer (2 min).
Daniel G. Lebryk
- Published on Amazon.com
The title of the film did not bode well, The Big Picture in English. I read the French title as the opening credits rolled, the translation, "The Man Who Wanted To Live His Life." The two titles have nothing to do with each other, and in the end, the American title was really wrong. This is a film about a man that wants to live his own life. This isn't a film with one accidental dramatic moment in the middle, this is film about a man that hated his life and wanted to find something else.
The first half of this film is incredibly well done, beautiful, and coherent. Paul is a creative person, artist, trapped in a mundane world of day to day. He has a beautiful wife, two children, the stunning Catherine Deneuve as his boss, and all the material things anybody could possibly ever want. As the film progresses it becomes clear Paul is unhappy - or longing for something else. He is a tormented artist in a mundane life.
I won't spoil the film - at exactly the half-way point (I kept looking at how much time was left for this incredibly long film) the dramatic moment happens. Everything changes in his life. The trailers and film description would have you believe this is happenstance, and that one event changes Paul's life. I contend it was planned, and it was exactly what Paul was looking for.
The second half of the film becomes bizzaro land. The film style changes, shots are much longer with little dialog, and frankly it becomes boring. We are supposed to believe that Paul bounces from one thing to the next and because he is a brilliant artist that was trapped by his average work a day life, he becomes something incredible. I stopped believing at that halfway point.
Technically the film is well done. The scenes in Paris are stunning. This is an insufferable two hours long, even the beautiful first hour is too long. Romain Duris, an actor I like very much, as Paul owes a lot to Jean-Pierre Leaud, the actor that starred in virtually every Francois Truffaut film. Duris's performance was stiff and distant. When he wasn't being the trapped artist, he gazed off into the distance. Leaud did this in so many Truffaut films.
The film is not rated. In general it is probably a PG-13 film, aside from one very short sequence near the end of the film where two people make love and there is a brief glimpse of a woman's breast. There is a bit of violence at the middle of the film. There is a moment where a dead body is moved around a lot. Frankly, nothing worse than what might be seen on television prime time. The film is in French with English subtitles that can be turned off.
I liked the first half of this film, even if the pacing was slow. The second half was like a completely different film. It felt like welcome to bizzaro land, the film has fallen off its tracks. The ending was abrupt, tied the whole film up into a neat little bow, and was disappointing. This is not about the big picture, but about a man that wants to do something different with his life.