Tag Archives: The Artist

Battle Royale


As any masterful strategist knows, picking the perfect enemy is as important as selecting one’s ally.

But why did Hollywood producer and Oscar award-magnet Harvey Weinstein publicly trash the godfather of France’s far right, Jean-Marie Le Pen, just days after a Weinstein import, The Artist, quietly rocked the Academy Awards?

If Weinstein were almost any other American producer fresh from shepherding a French-made and mostly silent black-and-white film to five improbable Oscars, he would probably still be polishing those trophies and trying to capitalize at the box office.

But as an aggressive movie-industry legend whose films have won 86 Oscars, Weinstein is not like other producers. The television show Entourage immortalized Weinstein — especially in an episode titled, “Sorry, Harvey” — in which a stunning, foul-mouthed, abusive film producer named “Harvey Weingard” curses out waiters, threatens to destroy various actors’ careers, and brandishes a knife over dinner with one of the main characters. (A Weinstein rep commented to Variety magazine in 2007 that the producer thinks Entourage is a “fun and entertaining show.”)

So perhaps it is no wonder that Weinstein is already hard at work to make sure that France’s enormously successful film, The Intouchables, enjoys a similar reception in the United States.

The fish-out-of-water, interracial buddy movie tells the story of a poor, young black man from a suburban ghetto who is hired to care for a bourgeois, white, quadriplegic Parisian man. It may not sound like a recipe for surefire comedy, but the feel-good movie about a former convict who teaches his wheelchair-bound boss how to live again has become the second-highest-grossing film on French soil, ever. (It has sold nearly one ticket for every three French citizens.) The lion’s share of the film’s $250 million take has come from France, a country with one-fifth of the U.S. population — meaning that an equivalent success in the United States would be a billion-dollar movie. That’s bigger than Titanic or Avatar.

Critically, the film scored excellent reviews in France. Highbrow critics tended to note their suspicions about the politically correct-sounding core concept, only to revel in the film’s on-screen execution and the performances of its acting duo. Most ranked the film as good or excellent. At one press screening, jaded French film critics — generally a cerebral group that avoids public displays of affection — actually applauded, vigorously. The left-leaning Nouvel Observateur magazine went further, commenting: “There is no point in beating around the bush: The Intouchables is a miracle.”

The public felt the same, only more so. The film’s average ranking out of some 5,500 reviews on France’s AlloCinĂ© website is 4.5 stars out of five, with 58 percent giving it the maximum. And two days before the Oscars, one of the stars of The Intouchables, Omar Sy — who plays the ex-con — beat out Jean Dujardin of The Artist for the best-actor CĂ©sar award (the French equivalent of the Oscar), making Sy the first black man in French history to win in that category.

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