A Self Made Hero

on September 12, 1997 by Ed Scheid
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"The best lives are invented" is a significant quote from this very inventive film about deception and avoiding the truth of the past. "A Self Made Hero" ("Un Heros Tres Discret"), directed and co-written by Jacques Audlard, won the best screenplay award at Cannes; based on a novel by Jean-Francois Denlau, the script takes clever turns and captures many amusing details.
Albert, a boy in a French town post-Great War, imagines himself a storybook hero. His first exposure to lies occurs when he discovers his dead father, whom his mother reveres as a war hero, was a drunk who died in a bar. Throughout his life, Albert hides what is true. The grown Albert ("La Haine's" Mathieu Kassovitz) copies from a book and passes it off as his own writing to impress a neighbor (Sandrine Kiberlain) whom he later marries. Although he avoids service after World War II opens, after he learns that his wife's family was active in the Resistance against the Germans Albert leaves for Paris in the final months of the conflict. There, he invents a new identity, passing himself off as a Resistance hero. To perfect his deceit, Albert studies and rehearses like an actor; his life becomes a performance. His surface charm makes him popular in Resistance circles, helping him find unexpected success. He even becomes involved with a seductive Resistance fighter (Anouk Grinberg). How far can Albert go?
Audlard ingeniously adds a documentary-like structure by having the present-day Albert ("Red's" Jean-Louis Trintignant) periodically comment on his past, and contemporaries and historical experts discuss Albert throughout the film. Kassovitz, who received a best director nod for "La Haine" at the 1995 Cannes fest, is always likable as the supposed hero who gains confidence as his fabrications are believed. An excellent supporting cast portrays the people Albert meets on his way to success. Starring Mathieu Kassovitz, Anouk Grinberg, Sandrine Kiberlain and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Directed by Jacques Audlard. Written by Alain Le Henry and Jacques Audlard. Produced by Patrick Godeau. A Strand release. Comedy/drama. French-language; English subtitles. Running time: 105 min. Screened at the 1996 Telluride fest.
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