The Intouchables (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
February 25, 2013 by Dennis Amith
“The Intouchables” captivated audiences internationally, the third top selling film in France of all time and a winner of multiple awards. “The Intouchables” is a French cinema that is optimistic and full of hope, definitely a feel-good film that I recommend!
TITLE: The Intouchables
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 112 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: R (For Language and Some Drug Use)
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Directed by Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Written by Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Producer: Nicolas Duval-Adassovsky, Laurent Zeitoun, Yann Zenou
Associate Producer: Arnaud Bertrand, Dominique Boutonnat, Hubert Caillard
Music by Ludovico Einaudi
Cinematography by Ludovico Einaudi
Cinematography by Mathieu Vadepied
Edited by Dorian Rigal-Ansous
Casting by Gigi Akoka
Production Design by Francois Emmanuelli
Set Decoration by Olivia Bloch-Laine
Costume Design by Isabelle Pannetier
Francois Cluzet as Phillippe
Omar Sy as Driss
Anne Le Ny as Yvonne
Audrey Fleurot as Magalie
Clotilde Mollet as Marcelle
Alba Gaia Kraghede Bellugi as Elisa
Cyril Mendy as Adama
Salimataka Kamate as Fatou
Absa Diatou Toure as Mina
When Driss, an ex-con from the projects, is hired to take care of an eccentric French aristocrat named Philippe, his newfound job quickly becomes an unpredictable adventure. Speeding a Maserati through Paris, seducing women and paragliding over the Alps is just the beginning, as Driss turns the often humorous world of upper-class Parisian society upside-down. As this unlikely duo overcome adversity of every flavor in this true story, they also shatter their preconceptions of love, life and each other. Based on the #1 international best-selling book, “You Changed My Life.”
When filmmakers Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano discovered the documentary “A la vie, a la mort”, they discovered a touching story about a wealthy quadriplegic French Aristocrat named Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his caretaker, an ex-con named Abdel Sellou.
A paragliding accident that left di Borgo, the former director of the Pommery champagne house and second son of a French duke having an ex-con as his caretaker was a story you you don’t see often. But it was because of Abdel being vain, arrogant and someone who didn’t feel sorry for him. Which in the dozens and dozens of people that were interviewed to be a caretaker, most felt sorry for him. But for Abdel, he was full of humor and made di Borgo feel life and brought happiness to his life because he was unexpected.
And so the story goes, as Nakache and Toledano crafted a screenplay after the documentary but also the experiences of di Borgo from his best selling book “You Changed My Life”, they visited di Borgo to read their script and di Borgo helped bring realism to the script (while some fictional experiences were added for comedy). But with Di Borgo’s go ahead, the film was made and would star actor Francois Cluzet (“Tell No One”, “Little White Lies”, “French Kiss”), Omar Sy (“Micmacs”, “Those Happy Days”), Ann Le Ny (“The Tste of Others”, “Declaration of War”) and Audrey Fleurot (“Midnight in Paris”, “Un Village Francais”).
The film would receive international critical acclaim. The film won “Best Film” and “Best Actor” for both Cluzet and Sy at the Tokyo International Film Festival, Best Actor at the Cesar Awards and the film became the third highest grossing film in France, the highest-grossing movie in a language other than English worldwide, surpassing the record set by the animated film “Spirited Away” and also becoming the top grossing foreign language film of 2012 in North America. While the film would stay at #1 in German for nine consecutive weeks, Switzerland for eleven weeks and multiple weeks for many other countries.
Suffice to say, the film was a financial box office success for Gaumont and in the U.S., the film’s rights for an American remake were purchased by the Weinstein Co. And now this award winning film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in March 2013 courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
“The Intouchables” begins with a man named Driss (portrayed by Omar Sy) driving a quadriplegic named Philippe (portrayed by Francois Cluzet) in his Maserati Quattroporte at a very high speed. The police then chase after them and they are stopped, while Driss bets Philippe that he can get away or be escorted. As the police try to arrest Driss, he tells them that he was trying to bring Phllippe to the emergency room and Philippe acts as if he is having a stroke. Suffice to say, the plan worked and the police escort them to the hospital.
The story then gives us a flashback of how the two men became friends.
The film begins with Philippe and his assistant Magalie (portrayed by Audrey Fleurot) interviewing candidates to be a live-in caretaker, but each person they interview, Philippe is not to pleased with them. All of a sudden, Driss barges in and asks for Philippe to sign his paper that he was looking for a job, rejected, so he can get his benefits. When Philippe begins questioning him, Driss behaves in a manner that he could care less if Philippe is quadriplegic, he just wants the papers signed and shown that he was rejected for the job. Meanwhile, flirting with Magalie in front of Philippe and making him laugh. Philippe tells Driss to come by the following morning to pick up his signed paper.
We then see Driss hanging out with people in the streets, going to an apartment where nearly a dozen kids are living and how difficult it is for him as kids are everywhere. When his aunt arrives, he tries to surprise her and give her an egg, but she is angry that he never contacted her for six months and out of the blue, he shows up. Upset with him, she kicks him out of the apartment.
The following morning, Driss goes to pick up his signed paper but immediately he is being taken around Philippe’s mansion for a tour by Philippe’s Yvonne (portrayed by Anne Le Ny), who is responsible for operations in the mansion and the employees. He is surprised that he has been hired for a two-week trial period as a caretaker and that he will be living in the mansion.
Surprised he gets to live in the wealthy part of town with his own room, Driss is then trained to take care of Philippe, from how to massage his muscles, how to bathe him and learning more about Philippe and his disabilities. Learning that his wife had died of cancer, not long after he was injured and became a paraplegic. But he loved risk and going fast and paragliding was a passion. And as he accompanies to Philippe to various locations to look at a painting that costs a lot of money (which Driss aks why he would pay for a painting that looks like a nosebleed) to taking care of Philippe and making him laugh.
Eventually, he learns that Philippe has been corresponding with a woman by letters and have an epistolary relationship with a woman named Eleonore. Both individuals love the intelligence of their letters but she doesn’t know he is a paraplegic. Driss jokes with him that she should call her and not just write and Driss ends up taking one of the letters she written him and calling the woman and eventually, both Philippe and the woman talk and arrange a meeting.
But for Philippe, he is amused by Driss because here is a person who doesn’t give him pity. He treats him like a friend, makes him laugh, even makes fun of him at times. But most importantly, he treats him like an equal.
And when a friend of Philippe comes to him after checking Driss’ record, he finds that Driss is an ex-convict who served six months in jail for robbery. But Philippe tells him that he doesn’t care about his past and that he needs someone that will treat him like an equal, no pity or compassion and Driss does that. And he will not fire Driss as long as he continues to do his job properly.
And as the two spend more time together, Driss discovers modern art, opera, painting and eventually takes on painting during his spare time in the house. While Driss enjoys his job, he does not like how his adopted daughter Elisa behaves like a spoiled brat around staff and wants Philippe to teach her some manners, or give him the authority to.
Meanwhile, at a birthday party for Philippe, as Philippe holds a classical music concert at his home and tries to open Driss to understand classical music, Driss introduces Philippe and staff to Earth, Wind & Fire and shows off his dancing.
The two develop a strong bond not as a quadriplegic and his caretaker but two men who respect and learn from each other on equal ground.
But what happens when personal issues revolving around Driss’ family eventually pulls him away from his job?
“The Intouchables” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1). The film looks fantastic as skin tone are natural, black levels are nice and deep. Closeups show amazing detail, the film is colorful sharp and if anything, because of the multiple locations of where this film was shot, the cinematography by Mathieu Vadepieed (“Read My Lips”, “In Your Hands”) was beautifully shot. I detected no aliasing or artifacts during my viewing of this film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Intouchables” is presented in French 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The dialogue for the film is crystal clear and while the film is dialogue driven, also good use of music with a wonderful score by Ludovico Einaudi (“This is England”, “Insidious”, “Aprile”) and Earth, Wind and Fire coming clearly in lossles. There are scenes with ambiance of crowds or car engine revving but for the most part, the lossless soundtrack is appropriate for this film.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.
“The Intouchables” come with the following special features:
- Deleted Scenes – (5:35) Featuring five deleted scenes
“The Intouchables” comes with an UltraViolet code which allows for one to download their film to a computer or on select Apple and Android devices and to stream to computers, tablets or smartphones.
Quite often you hear about a hype of a film, you wonder if its warranted. It’s one thing to hear a lot of hype when it comes from America but when a film begins to make an impact in several countries and stays at #1 for consecutive weeks, you know that the film must be special.
And after watching “The Intouchables”, I have to agree, this film is magnificent!
Everything works so well with the film, from its writing, the humor, the outstanding performances by Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy but it’s a storyline that you just never see too often. When it comes to films about paraplegic, the truth is that many films are about perseverance and having compassion for that person who was left injured and trying to manage life.
But “The Intouchables” doesn’t do that. This is about an ex-convict who went into a job not for the sake of getting it, but for the sake of getting a rejection, having his paper signed in order to receive unemployment benefits.
But it’s the story of how a person, no matter how different they are, coming to a person’s life at a time when they desperately need it.
The character of Driss is in need of a job, a place to stay after getting kicked out of his apartment by his aunt, but what begins as a business relationship between caretaker and client, it became a relationship of friends in which Driss never treated Philippe with pity, he treated him like a normal guy, not afraid to crack jokes about staff or people, or even if he’s in a wheelchair.
The real Philippe that the film is based on said it perfectly in his interview with the UK Telegraph news publication about how important his caretaker was for him. Philippe said, “He treated me like I needed to be treated in the tough times ahead, partly because of my condition but also because my wife was dying of cancer [she died three years after his accident]. I needed to be back on track. Pity is the last thing you need. Pity is hopeless. Pity is what someone gives you because he is afraid to take care of you. I didn’t need that. But compassion I don’t need also. It comes from Latin and means ‘suffering with’. I don’t want you to be suffering with me. I need consolation, which in Latin means keeping me as a whole person, respecting me as I am.”
The film is magnificent for the fact that it’s an unlikely pairing, but its the growing relationship of these two men of how one is able to bring this man out of the darkness and enjoy life once again.
One scene has Driss jogging while Philippe is trying to catch up with his wheelchair. Not so thrilled that the wheelchair is slow, they modify it to make it go much faster.
Another scene featured Philippe wanting to get away and take part in skydiving and Driss of course, is not interested but eventually for the sake of Philippe, he does it anyway.
There are so many of these random moments of kindness that you don’t expect from Driss, even tricking Philippe into smoking a joint or hiring beautiful Asian masseuses to work on him and his ears (which give him pleasure).
This is a feel-good movie with a lot of charm and a lot of soul and it’s a film that leaves you feeling happy and appreciative that you saw a film so enjoyable. Sure, “Driving Miss Daisy”, “The King’s Speech” or “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and perhaps other films may come to mind, as this style of movie has been done before. Sure, the film could have been more melodramatic, more serious but it wasn’t. It’s a film that manages not to be too sad but has its interjection of humor and with the two wonderful performances by both Cluzet and Sy, you can’t help but feel captivated with what you saw.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic, colorful and well-detailed and lossless audio was also crystal clear when it came to dialogue and music. I did wish there were more special features included for a film that has received so much attention internationally. Only five deleted scenes, no audio commentary, no featurettes, nothing. So, if there was any low-point for this Blu-ray release, it’s the lack of special features.
I know that a few may find the film a bit repulsive that a caretaker would make fun of his paraplegic client in a certain manner, some that did not happen to the real Philippe but were featured in the film for comedy-sake, but through interviews I have read about Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his caretaker, Abdel Sellou… this is what di Borgo needed, a caretaker who didn’t treat him with pity or compassion, but on equal ground. And that is why those two had that bond!
While an American remake of “The Intouchables” is being planned, “The Intouchables” worked as a French film, as an American film, then things get a bit murky as people will question racial stereotypes, offensive treatment towards paraplegics and that it would have a negative impact for those in that industry.
“The Intouchables” is not about race, not about disability, yes…one man in Black, one man is not. One is disabled, the other is not. One man is wealthy, the other is not. Critic reviews from Europe differ from America as the race/stereotype issue is brought up here in the U.S. But this is a film not about racial hatred or a film about poking fun on a severe disability, it’s a movie about hope and no matter how these two individuals were raised, it’s how they are when they were together and the fact that as in real life and as in the film, this caretaker was able to bring Philippe, something that he thought he had lost… happiness.
“The Intouchables” is recommended!
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