A Gang Story: “Lots of emotion, blood and tears”
by Fabien Lemercier
30/11/2011 - "I didn’t want to glorify gangsters at all, but on the contrary show that this sacrosanct virile friendship is nothing more than an illusion…I want to show that gangsters end up either dead or in prison." An explosive figure in French cinema, former policeman Olivier Marchal, who established himself as a director with dark productions centred on the forces of law and order operating on the margins of legality (Gangsters, 36th Precinct [trailer], The Last Deadly Mission [trailer] and season 1 of the TV series Braquo) has this time stepped onto the other side of the mirror with A Gang Story [trailer] (see news), which is being launched today in 492 French theatres by Gaumont, which has also sold the title in over 40 countries.
"I wanted to make a human gangster film with action and emotion. Lots of emotion, blood and tears", explained the director, who has fictionalised the life of a real gangster: Edmond Vidal (played by Gérard Lanvin). "He’s not like most former gangsters who exuberantly glorify their actions. He is, on the contrary, very humble. He is the opposite of Mesrine in that sense. He’s a gangster, who has gone straight, lives a quiet life with his family and is haunted by his past".
Bolstered by sharp directing and an atmosphere blending dark realism and fictional mythology (a combination that hasn’t won unanimous approval from critics), A Gang Story (pictured) switches between the present era and the 1970s. "I wanted the present-day scenes to be very well composed, with beautiful sequence shots, filmed with long focal lengths, and, on the contrary, I wanted the scenes of the 1970s to be a bit more trashy, very lively, filmed as much as possible with a hand-held camera and always with as little cutting as possible."
The critics’ favourite this week is unquestionably Mathieu Demy’s intimate road movie Americano [trailer], which is being released by Bac Films on a 53-print run. Unveiled at Toronto and selected in competition at San Sebastian (see news), the debut directorial feature by the son of Jacques Demy and Agnès Varda, lends itself to all sorts of film lovers’ analyses: the character played by Salma Hayek is, for example, called Lola and the director (who also plays the lead role) has incorporated extracts from Varda’s Documenteur: An Emotion Picture in which he appeared as a child actor in 1981.
Also hitting screens are Luc Besson’s media-hyped The Lady [trailer] (EuropaCorp Distribution in 353 cinemas – see review); Hungarian master Béla Tarr’s mesmerising The Turin Horse [trailer, film focus] (Sophie Dulac Distribution on 15 prints); Miguel Ángel Vivas’s Spanish thriller Kidnapped [trailer] (released by its co-producer La Fabrique 2 on five prints); and Axel Corti’s fascinating trilogy Welcome in Vienna, which was produced in the 1980s and delves into the heart of the Second World War (released by Le Pacte in 11 theatres).
Finally, other releases include Jean Sagols’s Je M'appelle Bernadette (“My Name Is Bernadette”, Zelig Films Distribution); and directorial duo Marie-Francine Le Jalu and Gilles Sionnet’s documentary A Whispered Life (Ciné Classic).
(Translated from French)