×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Towards Zero

Agatha Christie fans -- and anyone who likes an old-fashioned whodunit -- will come away clucking from "Towards Zero,"

With:
With: Francois Morel, Danielle Darrieux, Melvil Poupaud, Laura Smet, Chiara Mastroianni, Alessandra Martines, Clement Thomas, Xavier Thiam, Herve Pierre, Vania Plemiannikov, Jacques Sereys, Paul Minthe, Valeriane de Villeneuve, Carmen Durand, Dominique Reymond, Camille Balsan, Ariane Rousseau, Hassen Brahiti, Bernard Marcatte.

Agatha Christie fans — and anyone who likes an old-fashioned whodunit, blithely played — will come away clucking from “Towards Zero,” Gallic helmer Pascal Thomas’ second stab at the Queen of Crime’s oeuvre. Pic has the same low-key retro fun as his 2005 local hit, “By the Pricking of My Thumbs,” and while thoroughly French, remains very faithful to the spirit of Christie, an author Thomas reveres alongside Balzac and Simenon. Though the film is technically very ordinary, ensemble playing of veterans and young ‘uns gives it bounce. In France, “Zero” bows Oct. 31.

As well as assembling the same tech crew, including co-scripters Francois Caviglioli and Nathalie Lafaurie, Thomas has again steered clear of adapting any of the better-known Christie novels featuring Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. Where “Thumbs” followed sporty amateur investigators Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, “Zero” is one of the few Christies in which Superintendent Battle (here renamed Bataille) is the crimebuster. By choosing novels with no well-known screen antecedents, Thomas gives his workan extra sense of freshness.

Story starts with a social gathering of legal mavens who discuss the finer points of their profession like vintage wine. The veteran among them, Judge Trevoz (Jacques Sereys), points out how a crime is actually not the beginning of the mystery but the culminating moment (“zero hour”), in which a string of predestined events finally come together and a murder is committed.

Post-titles, two seemingly unconnected events take place. A guy (Herve Pierre) tries to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff, but survives; and Superintendent Bataille (Francois Morel) is called to the school of his youngest daughter (Camille Balsan), who’s been accused of petty theft.

Story proper gets under way at a clifftop manse overlooking a bay-cum-estuary in northern France. Quite apart from the topography, the old-style building and its privileged denizens have a retro feel that could just as easily be ’30s or ’40s Blighty; as the mystery progresses, composer Reinhardt Wagner’s creepy-crawly score recalls any number of crime serials of the era.

In true Christie style, an extended family is gathering for a reunion that has “combustible” written all over it. Manse is owned by dowager aunt Camilla Tresillian (vet Danielle Darrieux, visibly relishing the role), whose demands have been patiently served for 20 years by professional companion Marie-Adeline (Alessandra Martines) and sour personal maid Barrette (Carmen Durand). Chief guest is Camilla’s free-spending nephew, Guillaume (Melvil Poupaud), and his second wife, Caroline (Laura Smet). Much to Caroline’s anguish, Guillaume’s first wife, unnaturally calm Aude (Chiara Mastroianni), arrives for the gathering.

Also joining the group is world traveler Thomas Rondeau (Clement Thomas, the helmer’s son), who has always loved Aude, plus smoothie Fred Latimer (Xavier Thiam), who’s always had the hots for Caroline. Quite a few of Camilla’s guests, and notably Caroline, are simply waiting for the ornery old broad to drop dead so they can inherit.

Much of the initial fascination comes from waiting to see who will be the murder victim. A rogue element is introduced when Trevoz, an old friend of Camilla’s, is invited to dinner. He turns out to be the first victim of an immaculately planned double murder in which all the evidence initially fingers Guillaume. Finally, Bataille, who’s on holiday in the region, turns up with his nephew, a local cop, to solve the mystery.

Casting is tip-top, with Smet having a ball as the highly strung (and sexed) Caroline, Poupaud all charm as the wastrel Guillaume and even small roles, such as dotty maid Emma (Valeriane de Villeneuve), adding to the sense of fun. Morel is hardly the plodding Superintendent Battle of Christie’s books, but his offhand style fits well with the pic’s general tone.

As in “Thumbs,” Renan Polles’ lensing is very average and not especially well lit, though it doesn’t get in the way of the characters and plot-driven story.

Towards Zero

France

Production: A StudioCanal release of a Les Films Francais, StudioCanal, France 2 Cinema production, with participation of Canal Plus, France 2, TPS Star. (International sales: Roissy Films, Paris.) Produced by Hubert Watrinet, Bernadette Zinck. Directed by Pascal Thomas. Screenplay, Francois Caviglioli, Nathalie Lafaurie, Clemence de Bieville, Roland Duval, based on the 1944 novel "Towards Zero" by Agatha Christie.

Crew: Camera (color), Renan Polles; editors, Catherine Dubeau, Marie de la Selle, Elena Mano; music, Reinhardt Wagner; art director, Katia Wyszkop; costume designer, Catherine Bouchard; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Pierre Lenoir; assistant director, Thierry Mauvoisin. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (World Cinema), Oct. 10, 2007. Running time: 109 MIN.

With: With: Francois Morel, Danielle Darrieux, Melvil Poupaud, Laura Smet, Chiara Mastroianni, Alessandra Martines, Clement Thomas, Xavier Thiam, Herve Pierre, Vania Plemiannikov, Jacques Sereys, Paul Minthe, Valeriane de Villeneuve, Carmen Durand, Dominique Reymond, Camille Balsan, Ariane Rousseau, Hassen Brahiti, Bernard Marcatte.

More Film

  • Assumptions Of Digital Disruption Challenged at

    IFFAM: Disruption Assumptions Challenged at Industry Forum

    What a difference a year makes. At the 2017 Industry Forum, part of the International Film Festival and Awards Macao, executives had concluded that disruptors to traditional models of distribution, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, are temporary, while film is forever. Only 12 months later, two of the three topics discussed at the same [...]

  • RealD 3D logo

    Wanda Cinema Upgrading China Theaters with RealD Screen Order

    Wanda Cinema Line has placed an order for 100 RealD Ultimate Screens from visual tech specialist RealD. For RealD the deal, announced at the CineAsia convention in Hong Kong, is the largest order in its history from a single exhibition circuit. The high-end equipment, which optimizes the 3D experience, will be installed in Wanda’s mainland [...]

  • Aisling Franciosi

    European Film Promotion Unveils 2019 Shooting Stars

    Aisling Franciosi (“The Nightingale”), Ardalan Esmaili (“The Charmer”) and Elliott Crosset Hove (“Winter Brothers”) are among the 10 actors and actresses who have been named as the European Film Promotion’s Shooting Stars. Previous Shooting Stars include Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Pilou Asbæk and Baltasar Kormákur. The new crop of up-and-coming talent for the 22nd edition of [...]

  • Jodie Foster'Money Monster' photocall, Palais, 69th

    Film News Roundup: Jodie Foster to Direct, Star in Remake of Icelandic Thriller

    In today’s film news roundup, Jodie Foster is remaking Iceland’s “Woman at War,” the Art Directors Guild honors production designers Anthony Masters and Ben Carre, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” gets cast and Melissa Takal directs “New Year New You” for Hulu. PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT More Reviews Concert Review: Maxwell Brings Down the House at Rapturous Hometown [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal to Star in Remake of Denmark's Oscar Entry 'The Guilty' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bold Films, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker’s Nine Stories banner have acquired the rights to remake the Danish thriller “The Guilty,” with Gyllenhaal attached to star. The pic won the world cinema audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and was also named one of the top five foreign language films of 2018 by [...]

  • Toxic Avenger

    'Toxic Avenger' Movie in the Works at Legendary

    Legendary Entertainment is developing “The Toxic Avenger” as a movie after acquiring the feature film rights. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers. Alex Garcia and Jay Ashenfelter will oversee for Legendary. More Reviews Concert Review: Maxwell Brings Down the House at Rapturous Hometown Show Film Review: 'Jirga' Kaufman and [...]

  • Constance Wu

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Star Constance Wu in Negotiations for Romantic Comedy

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu is in talks to join Sony’s Screen Gems’ untitled romantic comedy, with Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman producing. “GLOW” actress Kimmy Gatewood is making her feature directorial debut on the project. She will be directing from a Savion Einstein script about a woman who becomes pregnant with two babies [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content