Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Trilogy of Marcus Belvaux: On the Run, An Amazing Couple and After Life

I have now managed to watch all three films over the course of three days. Perhaps it's just me, but have you ever wondered while you are watching a film, what is happening in the lives of the characters not currently on screen? This trilogy answers that question for you.

The concept and execution are very clever - and it works. Film One: On the Run is a thriller, Film Two: An Amazing Couple is a comedy and Film Three: After Life is an intense drama. Each film contains the same set of characters but each focuses on a different couple. Each film contains scenes that feature in one or both the other films. The thing that makes it work are the camera angles and the editing which allow the one scene to have a very different feel in the different movies. The idea has been masterfully conceived and executed. I would like to watch all three again simultaneously on three different screens and plot the points of convergence. One thing that anchors the three films are three teachers - all female and each one the focus of the one the three films - Jeanne, Cécile and Agnès who are friends and who all work together in the same school.

On the Run focuses on Bruno LeRoux (Lucas Balvaux) and his one-time lover Jeanne (Catherine Frot). It begins with LeRoux escaping from gaol where he has been incarcerated for 20 years for a series of terrorist acts - he is a left-wing revolutionary. He makes for Grenoble and seeks to reactivate the old network and cause more mayhem. His band of revolutionaries have all moved on, settled down and live respectable lives. The thriller aspect comes from LeRoux continually trying to evade the Police whilst also trying to take retribution against those he feels grassed on him 20 years earlier. He is a ruthless character who is unafraid to kill - but he also has a tender caring side. The ending is unexpected.

An Amazing Couple focuses on Alain (François Morel) and Cécile (Ornella Muti). It is a comedy and unsurprisingly as such struggles to translate from it's French culture. Alain needs some minor surgery and wishing not to worry his wife he doesn't tell her but sets up a trip to Paris as cover. As is usually the case, one deceit leads to another and a whole web of intrigue and suspicion builds and sucks in most of the characters from the first film.

The third and strongest of the three films is After Life which has an ambiguous title - and ending. This film features a married couple - school teacher and heroin addict Agnès Manise (Dominique Blanc) and her cop husband Pascal. This is an intense film and weaves seamlessly in and out of the first two with many shared scenes. In the first two films Pascal is shown a weak and seedy character, unsympathetic and collusive. This film uses many of the character defining scenes from the first two films but because of the editing and the context in which they are set within the narrative, they portray Pascal as a warm, loving and long-suffering husband.

As each film unfolds so more of the pieces of the jigsaw fall into place to reveal the finished scene. Each film can be enjoyed separately and the viewer would not necessarily feel cheated by only seeing one of them. However, the three together exceed the sum of their parts and offer a piece of art that is far superior to your run-of-the mill thriller, comedy or melodrama doing the rounds today. This trilogy offers gripping cinema. Kieslowski's Three Colours does something similar but nothing like on the same scale or with the same impact as Belvaux's work here.

If I were rating the films separately they would get middling scores. As they are presented as a Trilogy and I have had the privilege of watching them as such and got so much from them as a Trilogy, I will award the Trilogy 8/10 for its conceptualisation and clever inter-weaving of narrative. The Trilogy is available quite cheaply on Amazon - go on, indulge.

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