Thursday, 14 July 2011

Wombats, Words and Mesrine

I like the idea that through what I do, I complete myself as a person. I'm always ready for new experiences. I love when what you do becomes part of your revolution."

- French Actor Vincent Cassel

Another few bizarre weeks have flown by. An interesting website opened for people who hate words.  Editor Ben Judge wants your submissions regarding ridiculous wordiness. I went to Alton Towers theme park and left the contents of my arse in the tunnel of Oblivion. The UK no longer has a heavyweight boxing belt after Russian Vladimir Klitschko twatted David Haye. A stomach bug knocked me for six. I went for an assessment for work experience at a local TV company and got through to the final 100, down from 2000 applicants. And I'm still in the running. The BBC reported about a prehistoric “wombat on steroids”.  I gave the Matt Tuckey Award for Funniest Website to Animals Being Dicks.

I also watched Mesrine parts 1 and 2, the biography of the French gangster, known for being gunned down by the Paris Police, who famously claimed no jail could ever keep him. Director Jean-François Richet spends 5+1/2 hours proving this to us. These are two very well-made, entertaining films. The two Mesrine movies offer two very different versions of one clichéd gangster story- albeit one fronted by France’s very talented leading man, Vincent Cassel. Jaques Mesrine is a hard, dangerous and ruthless gangster who bullies his way to success, disposing of his enemies and numerous girlfriends along the way. Vengeful policemen, downtrodden prostitutes and sleazy nightclub owners all appear when needed. But when you strip away the fine acting, accurate attention to period, solid direction, inventive split-screen editing and good pacing, you are left with little more than Scarface in France. (I’m comparing it to the superior 1932 original Scarface, where the police- not the gangsters- kill Montana.)

But it’s a true story, Matt.” Yes. Yes, it is. Does that excuse the director using a well-trodden path? The film industry has churned out countless truth-based gangster stories. Some are better than others, but more often than not the stories are identikit- like this one. The films begin with some text indicating that there are many sides to each story and that a totally biographical version of a series of events would be impossible to create.

One other gripe: The film begins with Mesrine dead, shot in the face by police. He’s been machine-gunned by the officers in the van directly in front of his car, yet his face is still intact. Doubtful. His girlfriend is sat next to him. She’s shocked but unharmed physically. Perhaps this is plausible. Her dog, however, which she is carrying on her lap, is dead. Explain this to me, director! How can this be? Is my knowledge of machine-gun fire insufficient? Is the portrayal of Mesrine’s death technically- and historically- accurate?

They’re definitely worth a look but Mesrine Parts 1 and 2 will not take on the gangster heavyweights in many “top ten of all time” lists.

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