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Monday, January 9, 2017

'My King' DVD: Modern Melodramatic Diary of a Mad French Wife

The uber-awesome Film of the Month Club of New York-based foreign film theatrical and home video company Film Movement starts the new year strongly with the January 10, 2017 DVD release of the Cannes-winning 2015 French drama "My King." The aforementioned award for Emmanuelle Bercot for her portrayal of desperately unhappy wife/attorney Tony reflects the depth of this story. "King" being a New York Times Critics' Pick further acknowledges the quality of the film.

The following YouTube clip of the "King" trailer is the best ever promo. at summarizing most of the film in 90 seconds without significant spoilers. You will feel that roughly a decade in the life of Tony flashes before your eyes.

Writer/director Maiwenn artistically shifts the narrative between the present in which Tony is undergoing intensive in-facility rehabilitation after a skiing accident and the past in which we see her begin a relationship with restaurateur Georgio and have that love affair become a melodramatic mess. In other words, Tony is like many of us in not knowing whom she marries until it is too late. Part of this is that Georgio learns that his best efforts to change are futile.

An early indication of trouble comes when Tony meets unbalanced former girlfriend Agnes, who continues rearing her physically beautiful and figuratively ugly head throughout "King." Suffice to say that Agnes takes neither her breakup with Georgio nor the presence of Tony well.

Other drama comes in the form of Georgio enjoying the lifestyle of the rich and famous too much, an unexpected reversal of fortune, and uncertainty regarding the extent to which love conquers all. They say that breaking up is hard to do. Now Tony knows; she knows that it's true.

The city-based elements of "King" centering on interesting professionally successful and personally highly flawed urbanites and their quirky friends and family make it the Parisian film that Woody Allen fails to get right. The only thing missing is the central amusingly neurotic character.

Maiwenn expertly contrasts this "real world" with the laid-back platonic relationship that Tony enjoys with her entourage of adorkable 20-something male fellow patients at the rehabilitation center. Their adventures include a freewheeling shopping trip to help one of the boys prepare for a date. She makes a good youngish cool aunt for the rambunctious lads.

The honest and universal nature of both parts of the story and the manner in which Maiwenn presents them helps the subtitled "King" pass the apparent "Movement" test of being one that can be filmed shot-for-shot and word-for-word in America and still make perfect sense.

Movement also starts 2017 well in selecting the 2004 Maiwenn short "I'm an Actrice" as the bonus short for this Club selection. This roughly 30-minute film centers around 10 year-old Baba, who has all the burdens of a child star without any of the professional success. Baba's mother Isabelle, whom Maiwenn perfectly plays, is a struggling pregnant/never-made-it actress/mother of all stage parents. The dysfunction of this relationship extends to Baba being the almost exclusive caregiver to her adorable younger brothers (who most likely will soon land on the acting radar of Mommy) and to having her pleas and demands to not pursue an acting career fall on completely unsympathetic ears.

Maiwenn the filmmaker and the actress perfectly sets the tone in the opening scene in which Isabelle blatantly and obliviously disrupts an aquatics class for pregnant women. The shock and awe is apparent to even the most casual observer.

Much of "Actrice" focuses around an audition for an English-speaking teenage temptress, none of which Baba is. Seeing her made up like a child prostitute evokes thoughts of Honey Boo Boo and of I'm ready for my close up Mr. Polanski. Watching Isabelle repeatedly assert a creepy lie and try to promote herself at the audition contributes a great deal to the impact of the scenes at the audition.

Hopefully the fact that Baba portrayor Shanna Besson is the real-life daughter of Maiwenn and writer/director/producer Luc Besson does not mean that this "Actrice" is a case of art imitating life.

Both "King" and "Actrice" demonstrate that Maiwenn knows the human condition and is very aware that it ain't pretty.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "King" or "Actrice" is encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.