Tell No One (2008)

Very Good

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on April 3, 2009 on tonymacklin.net.

A lot of people have stopped going to movie theaters. Going out to the movies is a habit. It's a great habit, but it's a habit.

Today many people wait until a movie comes out on DVD, so then they can watch it at home.

On occasion a worthy movie has a limited theatrical run and only plays in a few major cities. Despite the fact that it receives very positive reviews, the movie is short-circuited. It disappears.

Tell No One is a prime example. It received 93% favorable review compiled by Rotten Tomatoes, and it was a hit internationally. But it only made a skimpy $6 million in the United States.

It had been picked up both for theatrical and home distribution by Music Box Films, a small independent company in Chicago. This week the DVD of Tell No One was released to video stores. Now everybody has a chance to see it.

Tell No One is a French film, which may dampen enthusiasm in the United States.

A large contingent of potential viewers are put off by subtitles: "I don't go to the movies to read." Do you go to the movies to think? Probably not.

Two caveats:

1) I favor French films. Many are among my favorites -- Jules and Jim (1962), The Clockmaker (1973), Breathless (1959), Children of Paradise (1944).

2) Give me subtitles, no dubbing. If a movie is dubbed into English, the dialogue often comes out artificial and grating, without the natural lilt of the French language.

A movie that is dubbed into English from the French language is like an orange without its juice, bread without its crust, and an artichoke without its heart.

For those who can't abide subtitles, the DVD of Tell No One also comes with an English-language version.

And for those who want to wait a year or two, producer Luc Bresson is planning a remake to be made in the U.S. This is apt, because the book by Harlan Coben, from which Tell No One was adapted, originally was set in New York. The recent version is set in Paris and its rural environs.

Since the original is now in your video stores, my strong suggestion is -- don't wait.

Tell No One is a movie that should engross many video-watchers. It is like tasty French-Swiss cheese. At times it demands suspension of disbelief; it is full of holes, but that is part of its appeal. Its characters' confusion is shared by the audience. Remind you of anyone?

Made in the Alfred Hitchcock mode, Tell No One is about an innocent man implicated in murder and on the run. (Like the French, I am a sucker for Hitchcock references.) It has a terrific sequence of a foot chase on a highway. Terror in the sunlight.

Tell No One is the tantalizing tale of Alexandre Beck (Francois Cluzet), who is married to his childhood sweetheart Margot (Marie-Josee Croze). She is the victim of a brutal act.

The film then switches to 8 years later, when Beck is still grieving over what happened to his wife. Suddenly bodies are found that reopen the case. And another murder occurs. There is a plot, subplot, and subplot.

If you are averse to movies whose plots keep your head spinning, Tell No One may not be for you.

But at least by seeing it in your living room, you are spared the chatter of those in the theater who are trying to figure out who is whom?

French films often are character-driven and actor-elevated. Tell No One has a remarkable ensemble cast. Cluzet as the confused, buffeted Alex is first-rate. (Cluzet has a resemblance to Dustin Hoffman, and his personal claim to some fame is his off-screen relationship with Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard -- La Vie en Rose.)

Director Guillaume Canet is a strong director of strong women. Tell No One is full of them --Marie-Josee Croze (Margot), Kristin Scott Thomas as a lesbian restaurateur, Florence Thomassin as Margot's best friend, and Nathalie Baye as a willful attorney. Baye starred with Gerard Depardieu as the wife of the title character in the French classic The Return of Martin Guerre (1982).

The male actors also stand out, especially Cluzet, veteran actor Jean Rochefort as a bitter father, Andre Dussollier as Margot's brooding father, and Gilles Lellouche as a man who feels he owes a debt of great gratitude to pediatrician Alex Beck who once saved his son's life.

Director Canet makes an appearance -- ala Hitch.

Canet and co-writer Phillipe Lefebre (who adapted the novel by Harlan Coben) create a smart cop. He's like the contemplative inspector in Frenzy -- a rarity for Hitch. This role of the French policeman is beautifully underplayed by Francois Berleand.

Tell No One is the sum of its engrossing characters and brilliant actors. They may not always add up, but they are a formidable equation.

Tell No One is full of flashbacks, lengthy explanations, and diffuse but throbbing clues.

No matter what the language, Tell No One is a memorable thriller -- a potent experience in a universal film genre.

Hitch would approve.


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