the lexicon

a writing portfolio by Alexandra Savvides

Sydney Film Festival: I Always Wanted To Be A Gangster

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The Sydney Film Festival is, more often than not, a place to be seen rather than a place you go to see. Red carpets and media starlets aside, the crowded foyer of the State Theatre plays out like a casting call for a meet and greet, air kiss extravaganza.

Of course, a French film shot in black and white seems like the ultimate film to be seen at. However, rather than just being a du jour thing to do, Samuel Benchetrit’s Sundance award-winning film J’ai toujours rêvé d’être un gangster (I Always Wanted To Be A Gangster) uses this monochromatic palette in a very effective way.

There are four interweaving stories, each using the central theme of a highway cafeteria in suburban France as their main focus. As such there is no traditional linear narrative, and essentially it is a collection of four short films which, on a superficial level at least, are tied together by little more than one common element.

However, that being said, the element that struck me most about Benchetrit’s script was that every story told a gentle tale of a forgotten character – the bumbling would-be robber who opens the film, to the emo heiress to her father’s wealth. Even the aging musicians who meet surreptitiously in the cafeteria late one night on tour with their respective bands are in essence a part of the forgotten landscape.

Interspersed with gentle throwbacks to film noir, as well as silent and classic cinema, I Always Wanted To Be A Gangster flourishes because of the elegant cinematography and humorous, at times slapstick, script. The best performance comes from the bumbling kidnappers in the second story, echoing Jean Reno and Gerard Depardieu’s silliness in another French film, Tais Toi. Given such a subtle script and an ensemble of talented actors, even cornflakes can be made funny.

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Written by lexstatic

June 18, 2008 at 5:40 pm

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