French filmmakers used to be adept at depicting the problems of the upper middle class with wit and insight, but in recent years Gallic pics have handled the subject without much flair. "No Scandal" is no exception: It's a flat, mostly uninteresting film peopled with dull characters whose problems don't seem to matter all that much. Local business could be OK, thanks to the name cast, but this is unlikely to win many friends abroad after a North American bow in Toronto.

French filmmakers used to be adept at depicting the problems of the upper middle class with wit and insight, but in recent years Gallic pics have handled the subject without much flair. “No Scandal” is no exception: It’s a flat, mostly uninteresting film peopled with dull characters whose problems don’t seem to matter all that much. Local business could be OK, thanks to the name cast, but this is unlikely to win many friends abroad after a North American bow in Toronto.

Gregoire Jeancourt (Fabrice Luchini), a former captain of French industry, has served a prison term for an unspecified financial crime. This has been an embarrassment for his brother, Louis (Vincent Lindon), a TV personality who runs a hard-hitting current affairs interview program. On the day of his release from jail, Gregoire returns to the spacious apartment in which he lives with his wife and children — but, everyone says, he’s a changed man. He’s hardly articulate, he seems disoriented, and when he appears on TV to explain his actions, he can’t say a word.

The only person with whom he seems to be able to talk is lovely young Stephanie (Vahina Giocante), who works in the hairdressing salon his wife frequents. Stephanie’s boyfriend was also in prison (again, the crime is not specified) and was released on the same day as Gregoire. Inexplicably, Stephanie is attracted to the man.

One of the many problems with Benoit Jacquot’s film is that, although most of the characters keep saying that Gregoire has changed, the viewer gets no sense of what he was like before he went to prison. Luchini plays the role with one-dimensional charm, blocking any insight into the man.

Lindon is no more successful as his arrogant brother. Isabelle Huppert has little to do as Gregoire’s elegantly bored wife, while Giocante brings a degree of freshness to her familiar role.

Ultimately, this is a film about nothing much. The subject — the rehabilitation of a disgraced ’80s businessman — is certainly ripe for examination, but the feeble screenplay by Jerome Beaujour and Jacquot doesn’t begin to dig into the potentially interesting theme.

Visually, pic is polished, though the copy screened in Venice was notably soft-focused.

No Scandal

(DRAMA -- FRENCH)

Production

A Cine b/IMA Films production, in association with France 3 Cinema. (International sales: President Films, Paris.) Produced by Philippe Carcassonne, Georges Benayoun. Directed by Benoit Jacquot. Screenplay, Jerome Beaujour, Jacquot.

Crew

Camera (widescreen, color), Romain Winding; editor, Pascale Chavance; production designer, Sylvain Chauvelor; costume designers, Corinne Jorry, Thierry Delette; sound, Michel Vionnet; assistant director, Antoine Santana. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Sept. 4, 1999. (Also in Toronto Film Festival --- Special Presentation.) Running time: 106 MIN.

With

Gregoire Jeancourt ..... Fabrice Luchini Agnes Jeancourt ..... Isabelle Huppert Louis Jeancourt ..... Vincent Lindon Stephanie ..... Vahina Giocante Veronique ..... Sophie Aubry Mme. Jeancourt ..... Andrea Parisy Mme. Guerin ..... Therese Liotard William ..... Ludovic Bergery
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