The Intouchables

June, 2012, Comedy

Directed by:Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano

Starring:François Cluzet and Omar Sy

 Filmmaking may be a collaborative medium, but the director’s role is rarely shared. Oddly enough, the best-known directing pairs are brothers: the Cohens, (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men) Andy & Lana Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy) and the brothers Dardenne, Belgium’s brilliant social commentators. American audiences can now enjoy the efforts Oliver Nakache & Eric Toledano, the French directing team responsible for this enormously successful film which has become one of the most popular films of recent years all across Europe. If it’s shown anywhere near you, see it. It’s a buddy film in the most sophisticated sense of that term.

 Philippe, (Francois Cluzet) is an aristocratic Parisian who’s suffered a paragliding accident that rendered him quadriplegic; the film opens with his efforts to hire a driver and general caregiver who’ll work under the direction of his live-in nurse and secretary. Driss, (Omar Sy) a Senegalese ex-con, applies for the job hoping to be rejected so he can collect unemployment insurance  - - but there’s something about his brash candor that appeals to Philippe, so the applicant is offered a two-week trial which includes rations & quarters in Philippe’s elegant home. The boss loves classical music and contemporary art; Driss loves driving luxury cars, ogling pretty girls and taking long tokes on the ganja he obtains from his street friends.

 Grudgingly accepting the notion of a sharply circumscribed existence, Philippe expects only quiet competence from his staff. But Driss scoffs at his employer’s listless resignation, challenging Philippe to come to terms with the physical limitations imposed by his condition by living life to the fullest. Philippe introduces his young handler to abstract art and opera; Driss responds with side bets, whisky neat and the impertinent suggestion that Philippe should seek a new love in the wake of his wife’s death.

 There’s little here that hasn’t been done before in a whole host of other movies; rather, The  Intouchables many joys come from the masterful performances  of its "Odd Couple" leads. Cluzet’s palpable urbane charm blends seamlessly with Sy’s infectious ebullience at being given the opportunity to experience a life he’s only dreamed of. When pressures from his extended family force him to leave Philippe’s employ, the stage is set for a denouement as touching as it is true - - the ending credits play over black & white snapshots of the two men whose real life-story is portrayed here. 

 Cinematographer Mathieu Vadepied (Read My Lips) allows his cameras to roam all over Paris, employing everything from high-speed car chases to languid studies of the interiors of the city’s finest museum’s and theaters. The result is an infectious salute to an incongruous example of male bonding, highlighted by Sy’s exuberant dance sequence in which his effervescence becomes a perfect counterpoint to Cluzet’s growing belief his future has been immesurably improved by a young man from the projects who refused to allow life to pass them by.

 The Verdict? The most charming movie of the year. See it!   

P.S. No, the title isn't an example of mispelling-check your French dictionary and you'll find  "Intouchables" - which is translated as "Untouchables", a title obviously not available here in the U.S., given the exploits of Eliiot Ness. 

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