Poison Friends (2006)

 “Why do some people write?”

Poison Friends concerns a group of young French university students who are, to various degrees or another, impressed, awed, influenced and duped by the charismatic, intelligent and domineering Andre Morney (Thibault Vincon). The film begins in a large lecture hall in a literature class led by Professor Mortier (Jacques Bonaffe). As with all classes, many personality types are enrolled, but on the very first day, Andre Morney sticks out. Professor Mortier asks for a volunteer to conduct a presentation, and Morney leaps to the podium without hesitation. Confident, domineering, brash, and egotistical, he manages to make all the other students in his immediate circle feel somehow inferior. No matter the situation, Morney always manages to set himself up as the judge, the superior, the more experienced.

poison friendsMorney’s attitude works in several ways on his crowd of friends. He convinces one friend to become an actor, and in this situation, Morney’s confidence seems to work like osmosis for Alexandre (Alexandre Steiger). The graduate students in Morney’s circle are all working on papers, and several of them have literary ambitions including Eloi Duhaut (Malik Zidi), the son of a famous novelist (Dominque Blanc). If Morney even sniffs that one of his friends has literary ambitions, then this just becomes an excuse to belittle and humiliate the would-be writer. Morney’s favourite lecture–which he doesn’t hesitate to give to his friends–is to castigate those who have literary ambitions. To him the question ‘why we write’ is followed by the answer because we are ‘weak.’

Most of us have known some manifestation of a Morney character in our lives. If we are lucky, they are unmasked before they can do much damage to themselves or to their circle of friends. The Morneys of this world can be dangerous figures or just sad. In Poison Friends, Morney is depicted as a character who thrives in academia where his BS is largely undetected until it’s time to actually produce. The film’s setting is therefore perfect for this tale. We are able to see Morney’s manipulations and his pathological need to always assert his superiority–even when the evidence screams otherwise. In French with subtitles, Poison Friends is directed by Emmanuel Bourdieu.

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