Screening Room: THE INTOUCHABLES

(KTSF by Sean Au)

Top grossing film in France of 2011 is a comedy about a millionaire quadriplegic and his caretaker from the ghetto in Paris.

In a paragliding accident, Philippe (Francois Cluzet) loses his wife and cannot move from his neck down. Instead of hiring from a list of qualified caretakers, he gives Driss (Omar Sy), an ex-convict who has just been released from jail. Driss seems to be like the worst choice Philippe can make, but Driss’ energy is probably what Philippe and his adopted daughter Elisa need in the opulent household.

Inspired by a true story, the movie’s easiest jokes come from the mismatched personalities between the two men, with a reminder that a person is rarely like what you expect by simply looking at him. “The Intouchables” is the highest-grossing film in France last year and its distribution and remake rights have been snapped up by The Weinstein Company who introduced “The Artist” to the Americans. The film also won the Audience Award in this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival, a solid proof that a good film has its ways to cross language boundaries.

The movie’s success has taken Directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano by surprise. “We make people laugh about things that make them afraid,” explains Toledano. “The disabled, for example, makes us afraid. When we see a disabled person, we tell ourselves, we do not want to be in their place, we do not want to be always seated. It is only human, and we feel the same about people who live in the ghetto.”

French actor Omar Sy beat Jean Dujardin of “The Artist” who have swepted the top acting prizes in Cannes and the Oscars, on his home turf, taking the Cesars’ Best Actor prize. His companion, Francois Cluzet, who can practically only acts using his facial expressions has developed a rare onscreen chemistry with Sy.

Some critics claim that the film has taken race relations back to the times when black and white characters fit a certain stereotype. They cry that it smacks of racism. This opinion, I do not share, just because the movie reflects a certain unwelcomed reality does not mean that this reality does not exist. Remember the controversy with “Precious” where the portrayal of an African American family in New York shows a cruel reality that many find hard to stomach? Why not focus on this special bond that can blossom between two persons from difference stratas of society, that they open their hearts and be touched by someone in a way they never thought possible?

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Video courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

(Copyright 2012 KTSF. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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