Sunday, 18 July 2010

"Tell No One"

Guillame Canet's slick 2006 thriller has been sitting on my to-be-watched pile for ages. I've had a couple of stuttering starts at watching it, but never really had the time to do it the justice I felt it deserved. All this was rectified on the Eurostar to Brussels last week.

A train heading into a Europe about to be gripped by the world's most monumental thunderstorm provided a suitably menacing backdrop to this noirish piece of cinema. I've blogged before about location - and this is again a case where surroundings matter. "Tell No One" works fine on the big HD TV at home, but somehow it was more fitting to be immersed by it on a small laptop screen whipping through Flanders as the world threatened to come to an end outside.

"Tell No One" is based on a Harlan Coben novel, originally set in New York (and which I haven't read) but translates it into something ineffably French. The world inhabited by Alexandre Beck, struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife, and then thrown the curveball of an email purportedly from her, is not the Paris you see as a tourist. This is a much more real Paris featuring the banlieue, the no go suburbs on the outskirts of the city, as well as the staggering wealth of the Parisian horsey set.

This is a dark film full of baroque violence and menace. The fleeting, often unexplained characters, including a truly evil androgenous torturer who just will not die, hint at a richness and deep wider story that works at your mind long after the final credits have rolled. There are some obvious links with "The Fugitive" - a doctor wrongly accused of murdering their wife and seeking the real killer - but these are superficial - "Tell No One" is a very different proposition, and much better for it.

Much of the film's strength lies in what's left unsaid. The enormously appealing Bruno (Gilles Lelouche) walking away from his life, son, and girlfriend is all massively understated, but given what you know he's done for Alex, is genuinely moving.

A film you want to watch and then watch again to see what you missed while you were captivated by the story, and a film you want to persuade anyone who will listen to watch with you.

An American remake is apparently in the works. One has to ask why? Okay the original novel is set in US, but somehow Canet has managed to make this a very French story, and to my mind it should remain so. Sure there might be a call for it, and it might well be a commercial success, especially given the  depressing number of comments on LoveFilm stating that it's clearly rubbish because it's not even in English. This if nothing else is a persuasive argument for leaving this as ultimate cinematic representation of this particular tale. In fact, if your French is up to it, and this is a bit of an ask, because it does explore a lot of dialogue, turn off the subtitles and enjoy the gorgeous film-making.

Among many awards "Tell No One" has won, it secured best soundtrack at the 2007 Cesar awards - and it deserves it - this is almost a film that could work on the radio with nothing done to it, and leaves tunes in your head that stay with you. Groove Armada's "Hands of Time" is more than usually effective. This is almost Michael Mannish in the linkage of music with image, and believe me, it works.

If you've got a LoveFilm subscription, it's a available to freely watch online; even if you don't you should track this film down and watch it. It will make your life better for being in it.


  1. This is a great movie - I think it works better than the book, actually - possibly due to the French rework. I don't watch many films these days but I am glad I saw this one. (Have you seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo yet? I really liked it - unfortunately that, too, is due for a Hollywood remake.)

  2. Haven't seen "The Girl with Dragon Tattoo" yet - but it's certainly on the list. That said, I'm often skeptical about films of books that I've really enjoyed, especially when they're as sprawling as Stieg Larsson's work. I'm oft reminded that most of the Philip K Dick adaptations are from short stories, and Brokeback Mountain only runs to a handful of pages in text.

    Will be interested to see what I make of it though.