Saturday, 2 February 2013

UNTOUCHABLE

(Intouchables)
2011 - Dir: Olivier Nakache and √Čric Toledano
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 8th February, 2013

"From the people that brought you The Artist," cries the poster for the French comedy Untouchable. The tagline is a bold and obvious statement of the film's intent to recreate the critical success of the winner of 2012's best picture Oscar. In financial terms, though, Untouchable has already surpassed it. Not your run-of-the-mill laugh-filled romp, it has nevertheless taken an incredible $364 million (£225 million) worldwide. The Artist, in contrast, earned a relatively meagre $133m (£82m). However, both films share more than a few things in common other than the obvious French connection. First of all, neither was a particularly easy sell to potential investors - one of whom asked the film-makers if the main character "could walk a little at the end". Co-director Eric Toledano says: "Even with friends at dinner, when they asked what the subject was and we'd try to pitch it, you would see their faces drop. I said, 'Let's stop the pitching'." Instead, he and co-director Olivier Nakache relied on the fact that they already had three relatively successful films under their belt. So they decided to let the tale - based on the true story of French aristocrat Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his carer Abdel Sellou - speak for itself.
 

The film’s international success was assured when Hollywood distributor Harvey Weinstein came on board. It was he who spotted the potential of The Artist and it is Mr Weinstein who put his financial weight behind such successes as "My Week with Marilyn", "The King’s Speech" and "The Concert" - all shown here recently. Mr Weinstein’s hard hitting attitude came in handy when the film was seized upon by French right-wing politician Jean-Marie le Pen, who accused it of being an example of France's move toward ethnic diversity. In the film, wealthy Philippe's carer Driss, played by French comedy actor Omar Sy, is a Senegalese immigrant. The real life Abdel Sellou is Algerian. "France is like this handicapped person stuck in this wheelchair," Le Pen told a French TV network. "It would be a disaster if France would find itself in the same situation as this poor handicapped person." Weinstein pulled no punches and accused Le Pen of being "a repulsive bigot"... Mr Weinstein was immediately awarded the Legion d’Honeur and the film’s box office soared. Unfortunately Mr Weinstein is considering remaking the film in America - presumably because the Americans can’t read subtitles. Colin Firth is tipped for the wheelchair role.

Philippe Pozzo de Borgo is still living in Morocco and has written his own account of the 10 years that Abdel Sellou cared for him. "A Second Wind" is available in paperback and as a Kindle download from Amazon.co.uk (enter the site via the link on The FeckenOdeon website). Abdel is now married with 3 children and runs a poultry farm in Algeria.