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The Untouchables & The Upside

06 Jul

The Intouchables – directed by Olivier Nekase and Erik Toledano – Dramedy – in French with subtitles – 112 minutes Color 2011.
★★★★★
The Upside – directed by Neil Burger – Dramedy – 126 minutes Color 2017.
★★★★

The Story: a quadriplegic billionaire hires a black parolee as his personal helper.
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Remade in Telugu and Tamil and in Spanish and in English and in Hindi, this is generally seen to be the world’s most popular French film ever made. And it is not hard to see why.

First of all, it has two marvelous parts, one for an actor who scarcely moves, the other for an actor who never stands still.

I knew nothing of any of this when I found it in my Netflix mail, for I had somehow ordered it, never having heard of it.

When it came on, oh dear, it is in French, and my English subtitles are not on. Cantering along on my laziness, I thought I would watch it without understanding a word. Could it be told by pure physical action like a silent film?

It could. But the next day I saw it from the start with the subtitles on.

For what caught me was the performance of Omar Sy. I was fascinated – yes, by his hemispheric smile – but also by his physical style which is also hemispheric.

He won the French Oscar for this performance, and it brings home Marlon Brando’s adage that, in movies, if the actor’s contents are true it, it does not matter how broad the expression is.

Both films are worth watching.

The Intouchables being both the first film from the original documentary is the better. The Upside, in American English, expands certain scenes for comic purposes as it expands others for other purposes, but the first time one experiences such a story is the treasured one.

The two films are cast in obverse. An actor of smaller features and an admirable internal technique, Francois Cluzet, plays the quadriplegic and adopts, rightly, a minimalist attack to turn the glow of the character bit by bit out of the dimmer and on into full illumination. A smart strategy when set against Omar Sy who has big features and who is in full illumination every inch of the way.

In The Upside, instead of the broad facial effects of Omar Sy, Kevin Hart acts the helper smaller. Also smart. For Bryan Cranston – an actor of broad facial effects, indeed with a visage so mobile, it appears that he ought never to appear off the legitimate stage – plays the immobile quadriplegic.

Bryan Cranston is a fine actor, but a cool one, which is why it was right that he should be asked to carry through the arduous twists of Breaking Bad. It’s not a part for a nice guy. Or for a baddie. But not for a warm chap either.

As a consequence, in The Upside the chemistry between the men never clicks. Both screenplays tell us it does. The title Intouchables means: Can you possibly enter into the heart of one unlikely man with an injection from the heart of another? Can a breeding take place? And the answer is Yes. In both men, we sense it only in The Intouchables.

In The Intouchables, the billionaire lives in a Paris palace, which is more fun than the penthouse of The Upside. In that palace the entire staff disapproves of the black helper. In that penthouse, all that obstruction is condensed into one thankless role, beautifully executed by Nicole Kidman.

Which film to choose?

Well, do what I did, maybe. See The Untouchables in French. Then see it again with English subtitles. That is all you need. Full value guaranteed.

 
 
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