Parc

Promising much in its initial stages but increasingly falling short on a number of levels.

With:
With: Sergi Lopez, Jean-Marc Barr, Laurent Delbecque, Nathalie Richard, Delphine Chuillot, Geraldine Chaplin, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Laszlo Szabo, Paola Comis, Judith Henry, Gregoire Oestermann, Olivier Torres.

Promising much in its initial stages but increasingly falling short on a number of levels, psycho-suspenser “Parc” is an intriguing attempt to transfer John Cheever’s 1969 novel “Bullet Park” from America’s comfy ‘burbs to the more-than-comfy environs of the contempo French Riviera. Good performances by leads Sergi Lopez and Jean-Marc Barr, as opposite types on a life-destroying collision course, can’t save a clunky script that goes off the rails in the third act. Beyond fest play, this pic’s future looks thin.

Writer-director Arnaud des Pallieres has shaken off most of the pretentious tics of his 2003 first feature, “Adieu.” And with the help of superb sound design, using silence and ambient susurrations, he conjures up an atmosphere of suppressed violence that recalls the slightly similar “Funny Games.” More’s the pity, then, that he loses his grip on the characters’ psychology at the moment when it’s most important.

Lopez plays Georges Clou (called George Nail in the subtitles), whose fatalistic meeting with Barr’s Paul Marteau (subtitles: Paul Hammer) reps the main dramatic engine. Cheever’s original characters were hardly less subtly named (Eliot Nailles and Paul Hammer), but for non-French auds, the continual reminder onscreen of their metaphorical monikers keeps driving the point home in an annoying way.

Georges lives in a luxury enclave, Le Parc, with his beautiful blonde wife, Helen (Nathalie Richard, good), and mixed-up, reclusive son, Tony (Laurent Delbecque). The TV news is full of reports on rioting in the country, though none of this touches their placid, orderly life — except that Tony keeps coming home with cuts and bruises (just from school soccer?) and won’t come out of his room.

Into the nabe comes bored, wealthy Paul, who throws a housewarming party. The bash turns dramatically sour, but gives him an opportunity to meet Georges and Helen, whose lives he sets out to destroy in a horrific way.

Pic’s first half skillfully portrays an atmosphere of festering violence beneath the community’s smooth, sunny surface, as well as hidden weaknesses in Georges’ character. But the crucial motivation for Paul’s actions is awkwardly supplied in a single scene with his mother (vet Geraldine Chaplin) at the 60-minute mark, and thereon matters simply get worse until a garbled finale.

Jeanne Lapoirie’s lensing of Monaco locations has a sunny chill that fits well. Other credits are also pro.

Parc

France

Production: An Ad Vitam release of a Les Films d'Ici presentation of a Les Films d'Ici, France 3 Cinema, Rhone Alpes Cinema production. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Serge Lalou. Directed, written, edited by Arnaud des Pallieres, from the novel "Bullet Park" by John Cheever.

Crew: Camera (color), Jeanne Lapoirie; music, Martin Wheeler; art directors, Francois Girard, Patrick Colpaert; costume designer, Nathalie du Roscoat; sound (Dolby Digital), Jean-Pierre Duret, Olivier Mauvezin, Jean-Pierre Laforce; casting, Sarah Teper. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Aug. 2, 2008. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Discovery.) French, English dialogue. Running time: 108 MIN.

With: With: Sergi Lopez, Jean-Marc Barr, Laurent Delbecque, Nathalie Richard, Delphine Chuillot, Geraldine Chaplin, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Laszlo Szabo, Paola Comis, Judith Henry, Gregoire Oestermann, Olivier Torres.

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