Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie made an adventure film in exotic settings. The movie was called The Tourist. It was, it appeared, a big-budget, completely American undertaking and was, in the end a pleasant enough escape. I had no idea at the time I saw it that it was a remake, that there was an earlier film, a smaller one, made by the French. One might think that the mere presence of Jolie would be enough for most to favor the American version. I would say that these people have not seen Sophie Marceau. And while I am a nearly obsessed fan of the incredibly versatile Johnny Depp, I cannot help but recommend Y van Attal, who went from geek to dangerous sophisticate far more convincingly than Depp.
The movie is Anthony Zimmer, made in 2005 and directed by Jérôme Salle. Zimmer is a criminal mastermind, worth several fortunes and clever enough to elude the concerted efforts by the best police in the world as well as elite hit men from the Russian mafia. His weakness, according to the smart top cop, is the woman, Chiara. She, both the cop and the mafia believe, is the key to his capture. In the French version the chases are less grand, the explosions smaller and the screen not quite as wide. However, there is real power to the story, genuine understanding of the relationship between the two main characters and a far greater sense of satisfaction at the end. The French win this one.
French film number two is Monsieur Hire, starring Michel Blanc as the strange, mousey little man who has serious intimacy problems and a conflicting obsession. Sandrine Bonnaire, plays a woman who is taken by or at least plays this strangeness and becomes the focus of Monsieur Hire’s voyeuristic habits. Largely because of these tendencies, and the fact that they caused him trouble once upon a time, he is also a suspect in a murder investigation. We are teased, almost from the beginning, that he is the murderer. We are torn as well. He is a nasty little man. Yet we take no pleasure in those who would bully him. As in any good film, things become more complicated. And there are twists to the twists.
While Anthony Zimmer sizzles on screen and keeps you focused with action and sweeping wide shots of exotic scenery, Monsieur Hire smolders. It is slightly claustrophobic and moves through the exposure of deep flaws in character made apparent in intimate, almost embarrassing glimpses. The film (1989) was directed by Patrice Leconte. He also co-wrote the screenplay, along with master writer Georges Simenon, who wrote the novel —Les Fiançailles de M. Hire — upon which the film is based. The film certainly has Simenon’s sexually bizarre and environmentally offbeat feel.
You may want to reverse the sequence of the two films. While Anthony Zimmer (maybe something bubbly to drink) is energizing, perhaps too much so before going to bed, Monsieur Hire might be a little too smarmy to leave as the last thoughts of the evening. Perhaps some Port.