June 26, 2017

In the Name of my Daughter – Review of World Premiere at #cannes2014

Unusually for this year's Cannes Festival no film based on a true story premiered yesterday – or if it did I missed it. Today though the series of inspired bys [see also Grace de Monaco, Mr Turner, Foxcatcher] continued with L'Homme Qu'On Amait Trop. That translates as The man we loved too much, yet the film has been given the English title In the Name of my Daughter. This totally changes the emphasis and obscures the fact that L'homme is a story about the infamous (at least in France) Maurice Agnelet.

Renée Le Roux played by Catherine Deneuve is the my of the English title. When the film starts she is an elderly woman pursuing justice against the man she sees as responsible for her daughter's death decades earlier. Deneuve is seventy herself and there is something plaintive about seeing the star of Belle de Jour pottering around. Her relaxed performance is merely a brief scene-setting prologue to keep us interested – we are soon plunged into the bright blues and yellows of the Riviera of the 1970s. Deneuve is now, less successfully, playing a woman almost four decades younger.

Le Roux owns the Palais casino in Nice, a baroque palace where she happily rooks players of their money. A new player in town – the possibly Mafia-connected Fratoni – starts to rook her of her money, 'winning' huge amounts at the tables. She is not so keen on this, especially as his final aim is control of her casino. Maurice Agnelet is her lawyer and adviser who helps her fight back.

When Agnelet falls out with Le Roux he switches sides. A dull story of casino ownership, you might think, but before the fallout Le Roux's daughter Agnes had returned home and fallen in love with the manipulative Agnelet.

This relationship complicates matters, affects the casino's ownership and becomes a focal point of the film. Agnes has disappeared, a body has never been found and Agnelet is prime suspect. All this we know soon after the start of the film.

Director André Téchiné starts with a character study and ends with a thriller. Guillaume Canet puts together a watchable portrayal of an untrustworthy yet charming man. He manages to be unpleasant and yet display some underlying attractiveness. Adele Haenel's Agnes is naive and overwhelmed by his attention. Her actions are irresponsible, but understandable as she tries to earn Agnelet's love. Her mother is a strong willed matriarch, the two having a difficult relationship that founders on Agnes' request for her inheritance. This isn't quite a prodigal son demand – she appears to have been left it by her father – but the casino is losing money and Renée is unable to pay without selling up, something she is loathe to do.

When filming on the Riviera you pretty much get beautiful shots wherever you plonk your camera. The overly ornate casino is the location of much action, but so is the balcony of Renée's villa, where you can really see why the name Côte d'Azur caught on. Agnes likes to swim, and given where she lives she doesn't have to queue up at the local municipal pool. With the Mediterranean hanging around to help out with atmosphere and a tale that develops into a court room drama L'homme should attract more than the usual art house crowd.

Jean-Charle Le Roux, brother of Agnes is credited as one of the screenwriters, so the tale is clearly told from one particular perspective. Oddly he is never mentioned in the film.

L'homme is being shown out of competition so cannot win the Palme D'Or. Nevertheless it is one of the more entertaining of the true-story films screening at Cannes this year.

 

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