Review: ‘A Head for Business’

A chuckle-laden look at the outrageous but surprisingly plausible path by which a small French investment bank turns into a Hollywood power broker, "A Head for Business" is a modest but consistently enjoyable satirical comedy. When the bank's board discovers that a lowly computer technician has deftly embezzled 104 million francs ($14 million) to make a feature film of Chekhov's "Three Sisters," ruin seems imminent, but the embezzler has plans to make the system work for him and his unfinished opus. In part inspired by Credit Lyonnais' adventures with MGM, and with plenty of jokes about the French at their own expense, pic can even be read as a prescient footnote to the Vivendi-Universal deal. If it doesn't make the rounds of fests, it could certainly prove amusing as a video item among the power elite.

A chuckle-laden look at the outrageous but surprisingly plausible path by which a small French investment bank turns into a Hollywood power broker, “A Head for Business” is a modest but consistently enjoyable satirical comedy. When the bank’s board discovers that a lowly computer technician has deftly embezzled 104 million francs ($14 million) to make a feature film of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” ruin seems imminent, but the embezzler has plans to make the system work for him and his unfinished opus. In part inspired by Credit Lyonnais’ adventures with MGM, and with plenty of jokes about the French at their own expense, pic can even be read as a prescient footnote to the Vivendi-Universal deal. If it doesn’t make the rounds of fests, it could certainly prove amusing as a video item among the power elite.

Scripter-helmer Guy-Philippe Bertin also appears as Gerard Dutillard, a nerdy-looking techie with nerves of steel who funneled bank assets into three bogus affiliates in such a way that the bank’s president, the redoubtable Jean-Francois de Roquemorel (Feodor Atkine), is legally responsible. Pic’s first half-hour, in which the staid bankers get used to the idea of salvaging the film they’ve unwittingly produced and explore ways of livening up Chekhov’s play (“I think we need a gang bang”), was originally a short that won prizes at the Clermont-Ferrand fest two years ago.

As a result, first-timer Bertin successfully attracted the funds to take his stiffly entertaining cast of bankers-turned-movie moguls abroad, filming them in London (where they glean pricey advice), New York (where they acquire a studio whose next release is an animated remake of “Battleship Potemkin”) and to Los Angeles and beyond.

Having raised a war chest on Wall Street, our out-of-their-depth protagonists discover that a little bit of business acumen and a lot of money will take novices astonishingly far in an industry ever-eager for funds.

Atkine is a hoot as the classy businessman who is blackmailed but takes a shine to his new profession. Claire Keim is lovely as Laeticia, the shapely young actress who inspired Gerard in the first place. Widescreen lensing is a plus.

A Head for Business

France

Production

A Bac Distribution release of an Alain Sarde presentation of a Cine Valse/Le Studio Canal Plus/AFCL production, with participation of Studio Images. (International sales: Studio Canal, Paris.) Produced by Sarde. Executive producer, Christine Gozlan. Directed, written by Guy-Philippe Bertin.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Carlo Varini; editor, Stephanie Araud; music, Nicolas Errera; art director, Claire Dague; costume designer, Mael Le Gall; sound (Dolby), Kamal Ouazene. Reviewed at UGC Danton, Paris, Aug. 25, 2000. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Feodor Atkine, Claire Keim, Albert Delpy, Guy-Philippe Bertin, Patrice Bornand, Dominique Compagnon, Claude Koener, Francois Levantal, Philip Best, Jacques Bryland.
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