Dir: Cedric Klapisch. Fr. 2002. 112mins
After the success of Europudding, the Barcelona-set youth comedy which was the fourth biggest French film at home last year (where it took $16.6m), Cedric Klapisch had a tough act to follow. He does so with Neither For, Nor Against, another ensmeble piece, but one which hives off into a completely different genre: the gangster thriller. Klapisch has avoided being tied down to a certain genre, usually ensemble comedy (Europudding) or drama (Family Resemblances) : when he has tried to change tack, (big budget futuristic adventure Maybe) he has been spurned both by public and critics. But Neither For, Nor Against turns out to be an agreeable surprise, starting out as a caper and then diverting into darker territory. Given its popular cast, which includes Vincent Elbaz, with who Klapisch worked on Maybe, and the quietly robust Marie Gillain, its chances of confounding expectations look strong. Crime usually pays at the box office, at least in France and should make for a healthy box office when M6 release it there on Mar 5. Chances of overseas sales should be good if it proves itself on home ground.
Klapisch should have made Neither For, Nor Against - which took two years to write, before Europudding (known in some territories as Pot Luck or L'Auberge Espanole). But problems assembling his preferred cast meant he had a window in his schedule - and the student comedy filled the breech. He edited the two films back to back, and currently is taking a well-earned break.
Gillain's character Cathy is a 26-year-old television news camerawoman who becomes involved with a bunch of amateurish crooks, headed by Elbaz. The easy money and the adrenalin rush of a series of small-time hold-ups gives a new dimension to her humdrum existence - and she becomes hooked by the frisson of danger and the risks of being caught. There is also the luxurious lifestyle when they are in the money, including a sortie to the Riveria and the Carlton Hotel in Cannes.
When the "bande" propose one last major heist to crown their achievements Cathy is the first to agree, taking on the responsibility of going blonde to seduce the chief of an armoured vehicle depot while her accomplices infiltrate the building's strongholds.
At this point Klapisch shifts gear, turning what had been a relatively light-hearted affair in to a gruesomely realised bloodbath, as if he was determined to provide a salutary lesson on the wages of crime. That said, the volte-face might prove too big a stumbling block for some audiences to confront.
En route to the finale there is more than enough to engage the attention, includuing the diverting camerarderie among thieves (a suitably diverse bunch each with his own set of ticks and foibles). Gillain's presence in the buddy environment produces all the requisite conflicts and interactions and gives her one of her most challenging assignments to date. As will all Klapsich films the picture is attractively shot and intriguingly scored.
Prod cos: Vertigo Productions, Ce Qui Me Meut Motion Pictures
Fr dist: Bac
Int'l sales: M6 DA
Exec prods: Aissa Djabri, Farid Lahouassa, Manuel Munz
Scr: Santiago Amigorena, Alexis Galmot, Klapisch
Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel
Prod des: Thierry Flamand
Ed: Yannick Kergoat
Music: Loik Dury
Main cast: Marie Gillain, Vincent Elbaz, Zinedine Soualem, Dimitri Storoge, Simon Akbarian, Natacha Lindinger, Jocelyn Lagarrigue, Diane Kruger