That Day (2003)

 “Those who fall are angels.”

In That Day when faced with bankruptcy, the patriarch Harald (Michel Piccoli) of a powerful French family living in Switzerland decides to arrange for the murder of his daughter, the loony heiress, Livia (Elsa Zylberstein). Everyone agrees–that although it’s somewhat regrettable–Livia must go, so that her fortune will revert to her greedy family. They rationalize that she’s quite mad anyway. Meanwhile the ephemeral Livia floats along happily in a world of her own–quite oblivious to the fact that those who surround her plot her violent death.

Harald arranges for the ‘escape’ of a dangerous psychopath, Pointpoirot (Bernard Giraudeau) from the local insane asylum. Armed with orders to “erase” Livia, Pointpoirot heads for Livia’s remote country mansion, and meanwhile, her relatives have arranged for her to be alone….

There’s a flaw in Harald’s plan–he made the error of relying on what would occur when Livia met Pointpoirot, and in a situation in which innocence becomes its own protection, Livia greets Pointpoirot as an “Angel.” Influenced by the Runes and Tarot cards, Livia believes this is going to be “the best day” of her life. Exactly what occurs after these two become soul mates is the substance of this highly unusual, entertaining film. While Livia and Pointpoirot discuss his diabetes, Harald fumes in his eagerness to hear the news that Livia’s fortune is his. He dispatches a number of the relatives to the mansion to check that Pointpoirot’s done the job, and naturally, these intruders are obstacles to Pointpoirot’s pleasant afternoon tete-a-tete with Livia. Meanwhile, two lazy policemen refuse to investigate either Pointpoirot’s escape from the mental asylum or Harald’s demands that they check on Livia. The policemen idle away the day eating one lengthy meal after another–excusing their lack of interest and activity by arguing that they only “work underhandedly in the shadows.”

Director Raoul Ruiz states that the film satirizes a Chilean coup d’etat, and while this may occur to you in reflection, the film is extremely enjoyable on the absurdist comic level. Actress Elsa Zylberstein steals the film in her role of Livia–she’s open, trusting and completely unspoiled–in contrast to her nasty, grasping jaded relatives. That Day (AKA Ce Jour-la) from Chilean director Raoul Ruiz is a black comedy that is heavily influenced by the serious thrillers of Claude Chabrol. The plot, the scenes, and the denouement should please Chabrol fans–even as Ruiz blends in a smattering of the surreal touches of Bunuel. In French with English subtitles.


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