Category Archives: Daniel Auteuil

Mauvaise Passe/The Escort (1999)


“You’re a bit of a dark horse, Pierre.”

With a plot that belongs to a Jackie Collins novel, the film, The Escort (Mauvais Passe) displays French actor, Daniel Auteuil as a gigolo. Auteuil is an impressive actor, so it’s no wonder he looks embarrassed and out-of-place in most of the scenes in this tawdry French film. Directed by Michel Blanc and written by Hanif Kureishi (amongst others) I expected a bit more.

Pierre (Daniel Auteuil) is a French lecturer who flees to London during some sort of mid-life crisis. He tells himself he’s going to write a novel, but it’s not too long before he finds himself beaten up and thrown out of a stripper bar. Passerby, Tom (Stuart Townsend) implausibly takes pity on the wayward Frenchman. Tom takes Pierre back to his flat, cleans him up, and the two become unlikely friends.

Tom, it seems, manages a cafe by day, but he’s a gigolo by night–and a rather high priced one at that. He introduces Pierre to the delights of a plethora of lonely women who are willing to pay for ‘company’. Pierre, who experienced some sexual hurdles back in France, takes to the lifestyle of a jet-setting gigolo with gusto. Soon he’s even on a helicopter being flown in for a ‘party’ at the castle home of the filthy, and decadent rich.

Life isn’t really a slippery slope for Pierre. He dives into his new gigolo lifestyle with no moral qualms whatsoever. He strikes up a relationship with a female prostitute who works for the same agency, and soon finds that illegal substances are a necessity. And throughout all this tawdry slumming through the seamy side of London, Auteuil never ever stops looking ill-at-ease and uncomfortable. I wonder if he feels as embarrassed as I do that he ever accepted this unfortunate role? Most of the film is in English–with just a bit of French spoken. Auteuil’s French accent makes his speeches in English almost indecipherable at times (remember The Lost Son?). Pierre’s character is utterly unbelievable, and the plot smacks of middle-age fantasies. There’s one scene that depicts Pierre at the gym for the first time pathetically trying to lift a weight bar. A couple of months into his expensive gigolo lifestyle, he’s sweating and panting furiously at the gym. Beauty has its price, I suppose. I’ve read reviews calling this film “gritty” and “realistic”. I’ll add a third adjective–“tripe”. Daniel, you’re still my favourite French actor, but you may need a new agent.

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Filed under Daniel Auteuil, France

Apres Vous (2003)

“You can’t adopt him.”

In the French comedy Apres Vous maitre d’ Antoine (Daniel Auteuil) saves Louis (Jose Garcia) from suicide. Antoine feels responsible for Louis and takes him home–much to the dismay of Antoine’s girlfriend, Christine (Marilyne Canto) whose objections are overruled.

The first scene establishes that Antoine is a person who seems unaware of just where his responsibilities begin and end. Incapable of setting boundaries, he tries repairing Louis’s life, and Antoine’s life spirals out-of-control in the process. Louis is unemployed and depressed over his break up with long-term girlfriend, Blanche (Sandrine Kiberlain). Terminal unemployment and a broken love affair are two monumental obstacles to happiness, but Antoine doesn’t hesitate to tackle both problems–he gets Louis a job as a Sommelier, and then begins the hard part of getting Louis back with his ex-girlfriend.

The funniest parts of director Pierre Salvadori’s film take place at the restaurant where the two men work. It’s absurd to imagine that Antoine and Louis could carry off the deception necessary to land Louis the job, but if you go along with that fantasy, there’s a chuckle or two. The film’s lack of humour can be blamed on two basic problems–a suicide is not amusing, so the first few scenes of the film (which set up the rest of the story) are not funny. Louis and Antoine form a team, and for the purposes of the film they are codependents. Unfortunately, while their relationship should create the basis for a farce, both together (and apart) they’re annoying to one degree or another. Louis is the lost puppy whose inertia grates after a while, and Antoine’s role is frenzied and doesn’t keep time with the film’s overall pacing. This isn’t a bad film–it’s mediocre. In French with English subtitles.

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Filed under Comedy, Daniel Auteuil, France

Sade (2000)

“Everything one can imagine, I have done.”

Sade begins with a scene inside Saint-Lazare prison in 1794. The prison’s noble captives are transported daily via tumbrils to their grisly fate. Meanwhile, with the guillotine in full swing, some of the more fortunate nobles–those who have the ability to call in favours or offer bribes–are transferred to an asylum at Picpus. Living in the asylum doesn’t mean that its residents have escaped Madame Guillotine–it just means that they’ve bought some time.

The Marquis de Sade (Daniel Auteuil) is transferred to Picpus–thanks to the devotion of his former mistress Marie-Constance Quesnet (Marianne Denicourt). She now lives with the Deputy Fournier (Gregorie Colin), and he indulges her desire to protect Sade but expects a great deal in return.

The Viscount Lancris (Jean Pierre-Cassel), his wife and teenage daughter, Emilie (Isild Le Besco) arrive at the asylum along with de Sade. Madame de Lancris hovers around briefly in an attempt to protect her daughter from de Sade’s wicked wiles, but when she takes to her bed, the Marquis and Emilie form a relationship. At first, the Marquis seems a little naughty–almost as though his reputation is not warranted. He even describes himself as “an old galleon–about to sink.”

The film succeeds in showing the coldness of the mass executions, the terror experienced by those being dragged off to their fate, and the bureaucratic efficiency that must be enacted to dispose of thousands of corpses. The doomed aristocrats in the asylum are either paralyzed by depression or intent on distraction. Emilie, incapable of either state, wanders into de Sade’s path–along with a young Chevalier (Vincent Branchet)–the plaything of a decadent, elderly noble. De Sade forms a relationship with Emilie–is he motivated by kindness, boredom, or is she a different sort of conquest?

De Sade has the name recognition that guarantees an audience, but it should come as no great shock that the film does not accurately portray de Sade. De Sade’s pernicious exploits remain–even today–rather unacceptable for public consumption. Of all the current ‘big’ name actors in French cinema, Daniel Auteuil is arguably the most capable for the complex role of de Sade (anyone who’s seen Auteuil in L’Elegant Criminel knows the depravity this actor conveys so smoothly on the screen).From director Benoit Jacquot, in French with subtitles.

Auteuil plays de Sade with a subtlety that belies the wickedness he’s capable of. The film explores the idea of Seduction as primarily a psychological process, and ultimately, the Marquis is a slippery, masterful expert. Directed by Benoit Jacquot, the film is in French with English subtitles.

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Filed under Daniel Auteuil, France, Period Piece

36 Quai des Orfevres (2004)

“Only the dead don’t return.”

The film 36 Quai des Orfevres examines the relationship between two French detectives against the background and ethics of the ‘ends justifies the means’ tactic of using informers to catch criminals. When the film begins, a vicious gang has just knocked off yet another armoured car. With the number of victims climbing, the pressure is on to stop the gang, and if that’s not quite pressure enough for the two protagonists and rival detectives Leo Vrinks (Daniel Auteuil) and Denis Klein (Gerard Depardieu), there’s also a promotion in the air. Their boss, Robert Mancini (Andre Dussolier) is soon to retire, and both Klein and Vrinks want the job. At some point in the past, Vrinks and Klein were friends, but that’s long over. The film hints at a distant rivalry concerning Vrinks’ wife, Camille (Valeria Golino).

Sniffing that busting the armoured car gang will win that promotion, both Vrinks and Klein hold their cards to themselves, and instead of sharing information, they each investigate separately. Vrinks uses a snitch with disastrous results, and a chain of events is set in motion from which there is no return.

This dark, gritty police thriller explores the lives of its two police protagonists while making it clear that everyone is corrupt. However, there are degrees of corruption, according to director and former policeman Olivier Marchal. Both Vrinks and Klein are violent men, living in a violent world, but Vrinks still has some code of ethics left. The morose Klein, on the other hand, will stop at nothing to succeed, and just how far he’s prepared to go is the fodder of this gripping film. The psychological cat-and-mouse game between Vrinks and Klein creates the explosive dynamic for this riveting crime film. 36 Quai des Orfevres, incidentally, is the address of the equivalent of the French Scotland Yard. In French with English subtitles. From director Olivier Marchal.

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Filed under Crime, Daniel Auteuil, France, Gerard Depardieu