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A Self Made Hero

Jacques Audiard

Un Heros tres discret

With the release this month of his excellent new film, Read My Lips (Sur mes levres), it’s well worth taking a look at director Jacques Audiard’s last feature, made as long ago as 1995. Audiard isn’t exactly prolific, but that may be one reason why each of his works has been so carefully conceived and executed. His scripts are strong enough to stand up as novels, while his visual flair and way with actors make him one of the most outstanding French directors of the past decade. All these qualities are on display in Un Heros tres discret, a deliciously inventive comedy about a nobody (played by Mathieu Kassovitz, director of La Haine) who through a mixture of luck, determination and downright lies manages to pass himself off as a WWII Resistance hero. What makes the film so very enjoyable, besides the excellent performances, is the way this basic impostor story is transformed, by means of fragmented, dazzlingly imaginative plot construction, into a witty, irreverent and, in the end, surprisingly poignant commentary on the allure of myth-making and the mysteries of the shifting phenomenon we call human identity. Although Un Heros is essentially a gently subversive satire on France’s illusions about its own wartime record, it shares many of the concerns of Sur mes levres, whose seemingly disadvantaged heroine is, like her counterpart here, clever and resourceful enough to succeed against all odds. Both films reveal an amused sense of admiration for their cheating protagonists, and in each Audiard’s subtle manipulation of genre conventions is a delight.

France, 1995. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 105 mins.

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