MPI // 2010 // 115 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // April 11th, 2013
You can hide from your past, but you can never erase it.
Paul Exben (Romain Duris, The Beat that My Heart Skipped) seems to have it all. He's a partner in a big Paris law firm, working closely with his lovely mentor, Anne (Catherine Deneuve, Belle de Jour). He has a huge house, a loving wife (Marina Foïs, 22 Bullets), and two button cute kids. Of course, he's not happy, having given up his dreams of being a photographer to seize and stay within the good life. One day, he discovers his spouse having an affair. One misplaced crime of passion later and Paul sneaks off to small village on the Adriatic sea to assume the life of the man he "murderer." Naturally, the victim enjoyed working with cameras, and so Paul seems happy and content to be on the lam and living the way he always dreamed. With recognition, however, comes the realization that he may actually have to pay for the way he finally achieved his aims.
Originally entitled The Man Who Wanted to Live His Life, The Big Picture represents the kind of internalized thriller foreign filmmakers seem to deliver at will. Meshing the darker elements of '50s noir with an existentialism straight out of the '70s, we get the tale of one man coming to terms with who he really is, all against the backdrop of brutal crime and questionable punishment. There are pacing issues here, times when director Eric Lartigua falls in love with his locations and fails to fully engage us. There are also problems with a narrative that seems to excuse murder-albeit accidental-as long as it satisfies the main character's aims. While the ending is ambiguous (will our hero go on the run again, or will he return to Paris and face the music?) and the motives often unclear, the performances pack enough punch to keep us interested. The story may not always satisfy our need for easy answers and recognizable closure, but that's acceptable considering the genres being explored.
On the other hand, it's hard to say if The Big Picture is actually entertaining. It's commendable, but not necessarily fun. Paul, as played with excellent intensity by Romain Duris, is a bit of a villain. He blames a lack of being true to himself for where he is, but never once acknowledges that there are better ways of making amends than taking another's life, no matter what he was doing with your/his wife. Then there is the lack of any real procedure. Yes, the truth starts to swirl around our lead once he lands on some far off foreign shores, but we never get a sense of urgency. Instead, there's an almost afterthought approach to why Paul wants to avoid publicity. Finally, the main message is overworked, providing us with little or no relief. We get it! We GET IT! Live THE LIFE YOU WANT!!! We surrender. In fact, it's safe to say that for every good element in The Big Picture, there is something that countermands instead of complements it. The results are a well-meaning but weak wash.
As for the Blu-ray itself, the directorial decisions of Mr. Lartigua both benefit and deter from our enjoyment here. The image seems unnecessarily hazy, as if a strong focus was never a concern. It could be an artistic choice (and it seems to be), or it could be the way the 2.34:1, 1080p transfer was handled. Everything else though-the colors, the details-are excellent and there are no flaws or visual issues to contend with. As for the sound side of things, the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mix keeps the dialogue clear and concise, while utilizing the back channels for many ambient moments. There's a stereo track as well, but it's underwhelming to say the least. Finally, the film is supported by a trailer, that's it. That's the level of added content provided here.
Ambitious without being obvious and both the better and worse for it, The Big Picture has plenty of potential. On the other hand, how the film handles its post-modern, edge-of-your-seat elements indicates incompleteness, not intrigue.
Guilty. Could have been better, but wasn't.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated