Belvaux's Trilogy (France/Belgium)
One: On the Run
Two: An Amazing Couple
Three: After the Life
directed by: Lucas Belvaux
starring: Dominique Blanc; Gilbert Melkhi; Ornella Muti
Barbara says: Barbara says: "I really liked AN AMAZING COUPLE and after seeing it was able to look back at ON THE RUN and think better of it. After seeing ON THE RUN Mary, Tim and I all sort of went 'Huh?' Of the two AN AMZING COUPLE is my favorite. It will be interesting to see the third part next week. I thought Alain was a riot (maybe I was just in the mood to laugh) but my favorite character is Cecile. She’s just enough without going over the top. Oddly, the character I dislike the most is Agnes. She makes my skin crawl.
"As an aside, I don’t know if it was just good camera work or seeing it in a small theater such as The Brattle but during the car chase in ON THE RUN I felt as though I was in the back seat.
"After much discussion Mary and I both agreed that AFTER THE LIFE was the best made film of the trilogy but we enjoyed AN AMAZING COUPLE the most. After seeing AN AMAZING COUPLE I didn’t think I could ever like the character of Pascal but that Changed with AFTER THE LIFE. The scene where he is lying next to Agnes while she is a drug induced sleep and he keeps trying to wrap her arms around him and guides her hand to stroke his face was heartbreakingly sad. This film did not change my feeling toward Agnes. It only deepened my dislike for her despite the drug scenario.
I find it amazing the way the three films came together. Of the three
you could Probably view AN AMAZING COUPLE and enjoy it without seeing
the other two but I would highly recommend all three."
Diane says (about AN AMAZING COUPLE): "The romantic comedy part of Belvaux's trilogy. The concept reminded meof Alan Ayckborn's "Norman Conquests" trilogy (a weekend seen three times from three different rooms in the house) that was on TV in the '70s.
"I was fairly bored by AN AMAZING COUPLE. Maybe I was more in the mood for the thriller last night.... Nevertheless, I will see AFTER LIFE because I just can't believe that that cop turns into a sympathetic character!
And in response to Barbara: "I'm with you on the Agnes character, Barbara. Three short appearances (?) and she has quite an impact. I can't imagine why Cecile is friends with her. And to think we are going to a movie next week featuring the two most horrible characters!"
Diane says (about AFTER THE LIFE): "Remind me not to use drugs.
"This film could have used some sex scenes; maybe AN AMAZING COUPLE would have benefited, too. Or maybe I just feel that Agnes and Pascal need to do more than peck each other on the face. I loved SID AND NANCY, but the rel'ship of Pascal and Agnes seemed sick to me. Are there any marriage counselors among Chlotrudis members? Maybe you can help them.
"Dominique Blanc does a great job with the withdrawal scenes. I agree with Mary about strong camera work in their scenes at home.
"I think Belvaux used _too_ much of the other films in the trilogy in this one--I felt lost when some people popped in and out of the movie (since I didn't see ON THE RUN). And at one point had to think: now why was Cecile mad at Agnes at this point? Too much for my little brain...."
"I relished seeing again the scene where smug detective Pascal
Mary says: "I was quite blown away by this film and I wasn't prepared for it, even after all the rave reviews the trilogy had gotten from Chlotrudis members. I couldn't imagine that my opinions of Pascal and Agnes would really change, but their story was so strong. The camera work showing familiar scenes from their point of view was incredible, especially those with LeRoux and Agnes in her home.
" I enjoyed AN AMAZING COUPLE so much also.
And after having seen all three movies, I can't believe that such a funny
movie could succesfully be a part of this trilogy.
Michael says (on ON THE RUN): "ON THE
RUN is Belvaux's thriller, and it opens first. Bruno has been in
prison for nearly 15 years, and after a daring jailbreak, he returns to Grenoble.
Imprisoned for his time involved with a radical revolutionary group, is he seeking
revenge on the man who betrayed them? Or is he hoping to pick up where his group
of revolutionaries left off when they were captured. Along the way, we meet one
of his former allies, Jeanne, now a mother and schoolteacher, who reluctantly
becomes involved in his plans. There is also Pascal, the police officer who is
trying to hunt Bruno down. In a complication, Bruno also becomes involved with
Pascal's wife Agnès, who is a morphine junkie.
Michael says (on AN AMAZING COUPLE): "AN
AMAZING COUPLE shifts gears sharply from a thriller (ON
THE RUN) to a romantic comedy. This time the story centers on Cécile
(a co-worker of Jeanne and Agnès) and her husband Alain. In classic
a European farce the married couple blunder through a series of misunderstandings
fed to riotous heights by Alain's paranoia. Cécile is the pillar
of common sense and honesty, but even she slowly unravels as the plot
becomes convoluted and the truth continues to elude the characters. Cécile
hires Pascal to keep tabs on her husband and find out the cause of his
unusual behavior. At the same time, Claire, Alain's secretary, is bounced
between the two in their attempts to uncover the truth. While Alain's
imaginings involve complex plots between the characters, it soon becomes
amazing just how much truly is going on in paralleln storylines that
are only hinted at in this film.
And in response to Diane: Well, I was hoping to hear from more Chlotrudis members about what they thought of the Trilogy so far.
"Strangely enough, taken individually, AN AMAZING COUPLE is my favorite. I just adore the character of Cecile. I loved the way when we first see her, she is elegant and composed, preparing for her husband's party, then little by little as things get crazier and crazier, she becomes more and more frazzled. Plus, by now, you must find the cop to be pretty reprehensible... just wait until AFTER THE LIFE, which focuses on he and his wife. Your opinions will change!"
And in response to Barbara: "Cecile is my favorite character as well. I think she's a wonderfully complex character, filled with such strength and conviction, yet so easily swayed by others. It's a character that works surprisingly well in the comedy, I think, and just as well in the more serious films.
"However, Agnes is a close second, and I think both she and her husband will really come to life for you in AFTER THE LIFE, since it's their story, and focuses on their relationship. She's a very complex character as well, and their story is beautifully told in a melodrama style.
"Even though ON THE RUN was my least favorite of the three, I think
Belvaux did an amazing job with the conventions of the thriller (as he
did with each of the genres). The opening scene in ON THE RUN, when Bruno
is escaping and we have a black screen with only sounds is unbelievably
tense. Her really kept me on the edge of my seat. A
Michael says (on AFTER THE LIFE): "In a remarkably effective use of the melodrama 'genre,' Belvaux
focuses on Pascal and Agnès in AFTER THE
LIFE. This somber piece
focuses on the relationship between these two characters and the drug
addiction that is at its core. After coming across as nasty and annoying
respectively in the first two films, Pascal and Agnès attain remarkable
depth and understanding as their full tale comes to the fore. This film
seems the most tied to the other two as Pascal investigates Alain's odd
behavior for Cécile while hunting down Bruno. I also felt that
these two characters got the deepest treatment as far as truly getting
under their skins and seeing how complex they and their relationship
Bruce says (on AN AMAZING COUPLE): "Lucky for me, Michael Colford suggested I start the Belvaux Trilogy with AN AMAZING COUPLE (a comedy). Although ON THE RUN (a crime drama/thriller) was shown first in this country I cannot imagine feeling the same about the Trilogy had I started with that film. No matter which of these two you may see first, the third film in the Trilogy should be AFTER THE LIFE (a melodrama) which seen before either of the others would ruin the story and not make as much sense.
"Each of the three films covers several days in the life of numerous characters who live in Grenoble, a city in Southeastern France. The first film focuses on a birthday party Cécile Costes throws for her husband Alain. Jeanne and Agnès who work with Cécile are there as is Georges, the family physician. The second film, ON THE RUN, involves Bruno, a former revolutionary who has recently escaped prison. He is being pursued by Pascal, a detective who is the husband of Agnès. Bruno knew Jeanne in their youth and meets Agnès quite by chance. Agnès hides Bruno at Cécile’s chateau. The third film revolves around the marriage of Pascal and Agnès as Pascal doggedly hunts down Bruno.
"Belvaux treats the scenes in his films as though they were parts of a giant jigsaw puzzle. That, of course, is the fun of it. Personally I feel that the whole is greater than the individual parts and I would doubt if any one of the three films would have remained in its present condition had Belvaux for some reason been restricted to release only one of them. Each film share scenes with the other two. Each film leaves out parts that are essential to comprehending the larger picture.
"Now back to AN AMAZING COUPLE. Cécile (Ornella Muti) has made elaborate plans to surprise her husband Alain (François Morel) on his birthday with the help of Claire (Valérie Mairesse), Alain’s secretary who is also a family friend. Everyone is assembled but Alain does not arrive as planned. We know where he is but Cécile does not. Alain is sure he is going to die because Georges has told him he must have routine surgery. In his attempt to be matter-of-fact about the whole thing Georges has inadvertently led Alain to believe that he is hiding the truth, which in Alain’s mind could only be knowledge of a fatal illness or condition.
"When Alain finally shows up at the party, he makes up a story that he had to drive Claire home. When Claire pops out from behind the furniture and draperies with the other guests, he changes the story to include a car accident. By this time Cécile is convinced he is having an affair. Agnès (Dominique Blanc) faints at the party. When Pascal (Gilbert Melki) comes to get her Cécile convinces Pascal to follow her husband and catch him red-handed. Meanwhile, we learn there has been a prison break and a dangerous man is at large.
"François Morel, a French David Schwimmer, is bumbling and convincing as a man who thinks he is near his death. This film, however, belongs to Ornella Muti who begins the film with great confidence about who she is and what she is doing to a fearful and gullible scorned woman. It is quite a transition. Gilbert Melki imbues Pascal with a weary, sinister air. It spite of usually heavy handed topics – infidelity, terminal illness, escaped prisoners – the film would be best described as a madcap farce, an extraordinary accomplishment one can only appreciate upon viewing the remaining two films in the Trilogy. 4 cats
Bruce says (on ON THE RUN): "ON THE RUN is dead serious, a film as far from AN AMAZING COUPLE as one could get. It takes but a few minutes into the film to understand what Belvaux has accomplished with his style switching. Bruno (Lucas Belvaux) escapes from prison with help from a friend on the outside. Pascal is assigned to track him down. This is happening at the same time that Cécile is preparing for her party and Alain is despairing over his impending demise.
"Within twenty-four hours of the party Bruno has contacted Jeanne, his former revolutionary comrade, and has encountered and rescued Agnès as she attempts to meet a man with whom she has a business relationship; finally he goes with Agnès to Cécile’s chateau in the nearby countryside where she hides him from the police.
"In AN AMAZING COUPLE, on the day after the ill-timed surprise birthday party, we saw Agnès asking Cécile to borrow her car and use the chateau. Smarting from the sting of her own husband’s infidelity, Cécile has assumed that Agnès is having an affair and begrudgingly facilitates her friend’s rendezvous. We see the parts of the same scene from a slightly different perspective, with considerably more information than we had in the first film where Cécile screams at Agnès 'Why can’t you go to a hotel like a normal person.' Belvaux toys with his audience while providing the viewer with an incredible amount of material to rehash. Few directors engage the audience in ways that come close to what Belvaux does here. Rarely is filmgoing so demanding.
"All the while Bruno is hiding out and planning his escape across the French Alps into Italy, Pascal is seeming closing in on him. Pascal is also drawing conclusions regarding Alain’s comings and goings, conclusions which confuse Cécile.
"ON THE RUN sticks with its implied theme and we finally learn Bruno’s fate before we know or understand what is happening with the other characters. ON THE RUN is considerably darker and more foreboding than the other two films. Trying as hard as I can, I cannot envision this film as the first in the trilogy. 4 cats"
Bruce says (on AFTER THE LIFE): "Decidedly the third film in the Lucas Belvaux Trilogy, AFTER THE LIFE is in a different category than the other two. This film is a melodrama and a suspenseful one at that. The two main characters in AFTER THE LIFE are Pascal and Agnès, and we learn additional secrets of their marriage, secrets which began to emerge in ON THE RUN.
"Of all the characters in the trilogy, Pascal and Agnès end up as the ones the audience can connect with the most. Cécile and Alain have real problems but laughing at their misunderstandings puts us at emotional arms length. Pascal is almost detestable in the earlier films and it is nothing short of a miracle that Belvaux places him in a light where we can see him differently. Agnès’ character does not seem all that different but we see her take actions not predictable from seeing the earlier films. It’s an emotionally taut film, and I think it is the “what I do for love” aspect of AFTER THE LIFE that is so relatable. If that thought worries you, rest assured Belvaux in no way gives in to sentimentality.
"Claire (Catherine Frot) and Georges (Bernard Mazzinghi) have serious encounters with the out-of-control Pascal as he frantically attempts closure on establishing Alain’s infidelity. Meanwhile his wife is discovering that Bruno and Pascal are more alike than she would ever have dreamed. These films are hard to review without giving away too much. To avoid spoilers, I have omitted some important points I would like to have made. As a result I’ll stick to looking at the big picture. 4 cats
"It is fun to compare Belvaux’s opus with some other famous trilogies. Belvaux’s Trilogy is slightly different than Satyajit Ray’s APU TRILOGY: PATHER PANCHALI, APARAJITU, and THE WORLD OF APU or Krzysztof Kieslowski’s TROI COULEURS: BLEU, BLANC, and ROUGE. Apu – the child, the young boy and the young man - is the common thread of Ray’s trilogy. Each film can be seen separately; each has its own story. It does seem pointless, however, to see these films, which have a chronological order, in a non-chronological sequence.
"In each of Kieslowski’s films the characters differ, but there is a thread tying them together at the end of RED. Were you not to see RED last, the connecting moment would be lost. Belvaux’s work more closely resembles the INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy in the way that many of the characters in each film are the same. INFERNAL AFFAIRS 2 is a prequel to INFERNAL AFFAIRS and INFERNAL AFFAIRS 3 is comprised of missing pieces so that the puzzle presented in the first two films can be completed. Like Belvaux, it is possible to see INFERNAL AFFAIRS and INFERNAL AFFAIRS 2 in any order but it is absolutely necessary to see INFERNAL AFFAIRS 3 last.
"My rating for each film in Belvaux's Trilogy is 4 cats. When put together, the films take on a special meaning and indeed th