Nos Femmes – Richard Berry

495755.jpg-r_160_240-b_1_D6D6D6-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxAfter a hugely successful run at the Théâtre de Paris two years ago, Richard Berry and Daniel Auteuil are hoping the chemistry that worked its magic on stage will translate to the big screen with a cinematic adaption of Eric Assous’ play Nos Femmes. With Berry and Auteuil recreating the same roles and Berry once again in the director’s chair, the film has all the ingredients of a sure-fire hit.  Berry and Auteuil are pitch perfect as long-standing friends whose relationship is put to the test when a third member of their exclusively male group Simon (Thierry L’Hermitte) reveals he has just killed his wife.  Although publicity for the film shows the three actors together, this is really a two-man show with Berry and Auteuil expertly batting the witty, incisive dialogue back and forth while covering a range of issues from moral responsibility, to the nature of friendship, fidelity, and, of course, love and mariage.  And it’s funny – really, laugh out loud funny – especially the unforgettable sight of Berry dancing and rapping to Dans Ma Benz by French group, NTM.  Nos Femmes is a real treat for audiences who will enjoy watching Berry and Auteuil at the top of their game and a script that provides genuine food for thought.

Max (Berry), Paul (Auteuil) and Simon have been friends for 35 years. They take great pleasure in their one vacation a year together without their partners and meet-up regularly to spend evenings drinking or playing cards. Each has a successful career and they all appear to have perfect lives until the night Simon announces to his friends that he has just strangled his wife, Estelle (Pauline Lefèvre) after a blazing row. Max and Paul are horrified by Simon’s confession, but worse is to come when Simon asks them to lie and provide him with an alibi for the time Estelle was killed.  Both men are torn between lying or turning over their best friend to the police.
Nos Femmes is following in a tradition for films celebrating male friendship that have long proved fertile ground for French directors.  There’s been Hugo Gélin’s Comme des Frères, Marc Esposito’s Les Coeurs des Hommes 1,2 and 3, La Vérité si Je Mens (|Would I Lie to You) 1,2 and 3 and just last week Olivier Baroux examined male relationships in the comedy Entre Amis, with Auteuil  once again in the lead role.  Buddy movies are not the exclusive property of French directors, but it’s interesting to ask why there are so many films made in France about male friendships and so few about the female equivalent?  Of course Berry’s film is not just about the ties between men, but also about the limits of friendship and how far one person can ever truely know another. Deep stuff, but Berry knows when to lighten the mood and shift the film in a completely different direction.  Some scenes work better than others. L’Hermitte who was excellent in Bertrand Tavernier’s Quai dOrsay is a little too flamboyant here as the successful hairdresser turned wife murderer. And while the scenes set in Max’s sumptuous Parisian apartment work perfectly, those elsewhere, notably at the opening of the film, seem false and overly contrived.
Films based on successful theatrical plays are having something of a renaissance in France. It kicked off with Alexandre de la Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte’s 2012 hit Le Prénom (What’s in a Name) followed by Guillaume Gallienne’s award winning, Les Garçons, et Guillaume à table (Me, Myself, and Mum) and most recently Patrice Leconte’s Une Heure de Tranquillité (Do Not Disturb). Time will tell if the audiences who flocked to see Nos Femmes on the stage will be as enthusiastic for this cinema version

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