Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lucas Belvaux, Catherine Frot, Dominique Blanc, Ornella Muti, Gilbert Melki, Patrick Descamps, Olivier Darimont, Alexis Tomassian, Yves Claessens, Christine Henkart, François Morel, Valérie Mairesse, Bernard Mazzinghi, Raphaele Godin, Patrick Depeyra, Vincent Colombe, Pierre Gérard, Jean-Baptiste Montagut
Written by: Lucas Belvaux
Directed by: Lucas Belvaux
MPAA Rating: PG, R
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 338
Date: 03/19/2013

The Trilogy (2003)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Three for the Price of One

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lucas Belvaux's The Trilogy is an interesting experiment. Using the framework of three separate films, one a thriller, one a comedy and one a melodrama, Belvaux tells three different stories, but criss-crosses them, intersecting characters from one story with characters from another story at crucial points. Characters who turn up in supporting parts in one story find themselves occupying the lead role in the next.

In the first film, On the Run, an underground militant activist (played by director Belvaux) escapes from jail and attempts to re-establish a secret foothold in French society. He saves a junkie (Dominique Blanc) from a beating and in return, gets shelter in a mountaintop chalet. In the second film, An Amazing Couple, the owner of the chalet (beautiful Ornella Muti) suspects her husband (Francois Morel) is cheating on her, and hires a cop (Gilbert Melki) to find out. In the third, After the Life, we witness the cop -- who is married to the junkie -- as he tries to track down the militant activist while monitoring the husband's movements.

It's a neat trick, and Belvaux uses each crossover segment to enhance the next. Throwaway moments in one film suddenly become crucial in another film, such as a surprise party for the flustered Morel -- who, it turns out, is not cheating but is preparing for a terrifying but minor medical procedure. In one scene, the party serves as a comedy of errors, but in another, it's a dire turning point for Blanc's character.

Of course, this kind of thing has been done before, and better, in the likes of Rashomon, Kieslowki's Three Colors trilogy and Jackie Brown. Belvaux's epic scenario is merely a pulp story -- full of murder, sexual innuendo and drugs -- blown up to airy proportions.

I recommend viewers see all three films, but not necessarily in the suggested order. I suspect that the slightly tedious On the Run would have benefited from being placed third rather than first, so that its thud of an ending would actually resonate.

If one were to edit the six hours of The Trilogy into chronological order without the crossovers, I doubt it would be nearly as interesting. Still it brings up some fascinating ideas. If only Puss-in-Boots had his own separate but equal film, perhaps Shrek 2 wouldn't have felt like such a waste.

Note: On the Run is rated R for some violence, drug use and language, An Amazing Couple is rated PG for language and thematic elements, and After the Life is rated R for drug content and language.

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