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Mesrine, and the Owen Sheers Tribute Album

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Recently my boyfriend (hereinafter referred to as M) and I saw both Parts 1 and 2 of Mesrine (Killer Instinct and Public Enemy Number One, respectively), and ever since I’ve wanted to tell somebody how good they were.  If you read the Guardian, you probably know that this is a two-part biopic in which Vincent Cassel plays Jacques Mesrine, a real-life notorious French gangster who was shot in 1979.  Of course, that’s “notorious” for a given value of notorious, as I’d never heard of him before this movie came out, and judging from my friends’ reactions when I mentioned the movie, nobody else in the UK had either.  But anyway, the film(s).

God, they were great.  I mean really great.  In large part this is due to what seemed like the filmmakers’ decision to let the character of Mesrine pull the movies along with him, rather than fitting him into a preset plot template a la Public Enemies.  Sorry, Johnny Depp; you’re a beautiful man and all but the Tough Yet Sensitive Outlaw, who’s kind to poor folk and truly loves his woman, who’s on the Wrong Side Of The Law only because it’s a Flawed System – well, I could spot that from a mile away once the movie hit the 15-minute mark.  I mean, I liked Public Enemies, but it does serve as a handy comparison to Mesrine to point out just why the latter is right on and the former…isn’t.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that Vincent Cassel imbues the title role with a wonderfully flawed self-consciousness, and – unlike Public Enemies and other movies in that vein – lets you know in no uncertain terms that Jacques Mesrine was a criminal, a semi-self-invented character, and nothing like a hero; at the same time, however, the movie places you somewhat among the French public at the time, so you’re laughing at Mesrine’s crowd-pleasing quips during his hearing while you’re laughing at Mesrine himself and the impulse that generates those quips in the first place.  Also, Mathieu Amalric (the creepy bad guy in Quantum of Solace, and the ex-junkie brother in that dysfunctional-family-Christmas movie with Catherine Deneuve), who shows up in a supporting role in Part 2, gets more enjoyable every time I see him.  He’s charismatically repellent: although you can’t help wondering if he’s part reptile, you can’t help watching to see what he’s going to do next, whether he’s going to lose it this time, and so on.


On a less serious note, M and I have discovered that substituting Owen Sheers’s name for popular song lyrics is wildly entertaining.

Expect a full tribute album soon.


Written by Kelly Kanayama

September 6, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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