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Les Liens du Sang
At first sight, Rivals seems to be a classic thriller: two brothers who stand on each side of the law. Inevitably, this has strong links and visible influences of the French Film Noir era with actors such as Jean Paul Belmondo, Gabin, Lino Ventura and Alain Delon. This is especially relevant given that the plot is set during the 70s’. And yet, Rivals is much more than that. Director Jacques Maillot seems to have understood that, in order to give depth to this genre and authenticity to his movie, he had to come closer to the Greek tragedy framework and family drama. Rivals is a subtle, intelligent, deeply-moving and surprising film.
The plot is simple: two brothers get together again when the eldest comes out of jail. The later is an inveterate gangster and his younger brother an honest cop. They are worlds apart and yet this fraternal connection brings them together. As expected of a Greek tragedy-esque film, we know from the start that no happy ending is possible. Torn apart between brotherhood and “professional ethics”, the two brothers would have little choice but to betray one or the other. A true Cornelian dilemma.
Impressively, considering the theme, Jacques Maillot manages to stay subtle, avoiding a loss of plot and tension with over-tragic dialogues. The fraternal duo Guillaume Canet and François Cluzet establishes itself naturally. Spectators don’t need words to understand: Admiration, resentment, disappointment, jealousy; their difficult relation is clearly interpreted.
Both costume and cinematography are exceptional. From haircuts to leather jackets, from disco music to yellow-brown shades in the apartments, the reenactment of the 70s’ is incredibly accurate and we are imediately transported back in time. Action scenes may sometimes lack dynamism and the movie has some overly long passages but we are, never the less, drawn into the plot and are kept in suspense until the end.
As far as the actors are concerned, Guillaume Canet and François Cluzet bounce off each other in perfect unison. Canet embodies a character full of self-restraint and controlled emotions. His performance is superb. Cluzet’s character, in contrast, is always highly provocative and flamboyant and, as a result, sometines comes dangerously close to crossing the line into over-acting . Supporting actresses, impressively considering the strong and potentialy over-powering brotherly duo, manage to hold their own in the drama.
A must-see which won’t leave you indifferent.
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