Dir: Etienne Chatiliez.Fr. 2004. 98mins.

Perhaps because his featurecomedies are few and far between, French film-maker Etienne Chatiliez has notreally developed anything resembling a coherent film style.

Sadly it shows with LaConfiance Regne, a weak, one-joke comedy farce about a pair of larcenoushouse servants on the make in provincial northern France.

The disappointment is allthe greater because Chatiliez, a wunderkind at directing slick, wittycommercials, only occasionally moonlights in feature films ' this is only hisfifth in some 15 years, since the 1988 Life Is A Long Quiet River, whichwas one of the top commercial comedies of that decade.

With his still potentmarquee name and his two popular leads, the film should follow Chatiliez'sprevious work to box office success in France, where it opened on Wednesday(though the press, usually sympathetic to the director, has been divided).

Overseas, the film willregister where Chatiliez is already established - especially Francophone andcontinental Europe - but is unlikely todo much for opening new territories. US remake rights to Chatiliez's previousfilm, Tanguy, were snapped up quickly but this film, less original inits conception, may not enjoy the same fate.

A major weakness here is thewriting. Chatiliez is only as good as his screenplay and this one, concoctedwith new writing partner Lauren Chouchan (who succeeded Florence Quentin, thescripter of his first three films) doesn't seem really tailored to Chatiliez'sstrengths ' the comic exploration of fissures in smooth middle class facades.Chatiliez and Chouchan are constantly having to repeatedly kick-start theepisodic action and don't take enough time to examine the comic fallout on itssecondary characters.

More fatally, the film's comictandem never succeeds in engaging our sympathies. Chatiliez and Chouchan'sminor new wrinkle on an old picaresque theme of the con artist is to make theseservants, traditionally so wily and subtle, a pair of vulgar, empty-headedlowlifes, whose intellectual pursuits never rise above a discussion aboutwhether women break wind or not.

This is a shame becauseCecile de France and Vincent Lindon huff and puff with all their combined andconsiderable comedic abilities, but make us care not a whit about theirtriumphs and reversals or, more crucially, their lop-sided romantic-sexualattachment, which surprisingly and ineffectually takes a climactic tragictwist.

The film is constructed, inits first half at least, as a predictable string of take-the-money-and-runrip-offs of various upper-middle class provincial households. Then the filmstalls until our antiheroes enjoy an unexpected windfall when they find a cacheof cocaine on a Normandy beach, washed up from a capsized vessel. Now a crassnouveaux riche couple, France and Vincent move into a luxury Paris hotel andlive the high life not wisely but too well, until they are back on the streetwithout a cent and forced to revert to their erstwhile thieving.

Right from the pre-creditsequence, when we meet our heroes robbing their respective employers andmeeting cute during their getaway on a train, Chatiliez strains to be fast andfunny.

Apart from the scam victims(the best of whom are Boudet and Chevalier in the film's early section), thefilm is needlessly weighed down with some subsidiary characters who add nothingto the plot, notably France's straight-laced brother (Berger, the lead in Tanguy)and her sub-proletarian foster family, headed by Chatiliez regular Wilms.

These latter scenes, inparticular, seem like nostalgic, self-referential look backward at his firstfilm, Life Is A Long Quiet River, which featured a similar clan ofdegenerates.

Prod cos: Telema, Films du Champs Poirier
Int'l sales:
TF1 Int'l
Fr dist:
Charles Gassot
Laurent Chouchan from astory idea by Chatiliez
Philippe Welt
Catherine Renault
Prod des:
Elizabeth Lefort, Stephane Makedonsky
Mathew Herbert
Main cast:
Cecile de France,Vincent Lindon, Eric Berger, Anne Brochet, Martine Chevalier, Jacques Boudet,Pierre Vernier, Andre Wilms, Evelyne Didi