Screened as part of NZIFF 2004
Fresh as a cool breeze on a muggy day, A Real Man, by the young Brothers Larrieu reinvents screwball for the new century and gives a new generation of movie-goers a reason to check out a French comedy. The film pairs the ever-watchable Mathieu Amalric (How I Got into an Argument) with tall, gorgeous and quick-witted newcomer, Hélène Fillières. Composed in three distinct acts, it depicts three stages in the relationship of Boris, an aspiring filmmaker, and Maryline, who works for the telecommunications company which has rashly employed him to make a promotional video. The film opens with the presentation of the extraordinarily silly film he’s made, a work that tells us all a good deal more about Boris’s romantic preferences than it does about phones. Maryline is impressed. She’s a head taller than Boris, but the chemistry is clear, to us at least. Their coup de foudre phase is played out to the strains of Bizet’s Carmen, with Fillières slipping in and out of a stunning red dress, searching her apartment for Amalric at an ‘impromptu’ party she has thrown as a cover for asking him around in the first place.
The transitions between phases in the relationship are dramatic and funny and it would spoil the film’s flair for the unexpected to say too much about them here. From Paris, to Ibiza (arty Boris responds to Mediterranean paradise by dressing in insect-like black), to a birdwatching retreat in the Pyrenees, the shifts in scenery register initially as amusing flourishes of filmmaking elan. But there’s always an equally amusing, plausible explanation – as well as a savvy attitude to coupledom - underlying the most far-fetched set-up. It’s their see-sawing professional lives that pose the real challenges to Boris and Maryline’s chances of continuing happiness together. The Larrieus celebrate their glorious escapist settings, and the film abounds with cool design, visual jokes and an ebullient generosity of spirit. There are also some very silly songs. Don’t expect to roar with laughter, but chances are you’ll be grinning, widely and often. – BG