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Original Title: Vidocq
Paris. 1830. In the heart of the town, Vidocq, a famous detective, disappeared as he fights the Alchemist, an assassin that he has been pursuing for a few months. His young biographer, Etienne Boisset, decides to have revenge on Vidocq's death and takes the investigation on...
French director Pitof was responsible of the visual effects of most of the best fantasy movies made in France during the 90s; including the brilliant works by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, "Delicatessen" and "La Cité Des Enfants Perdus". Now, and with a small help of Marc Caro himself, he takes the position of director in one of the best fantasy films of modern times, a fictional adventure of the world's first detective, Vidocq.
In real life, François-Eugène Vidocq was a criminal who later become a police officer and then the world's first private detective, innovating the criminology and the police work like nobody ever did. Now, in Pitof's movie, the famous detective (played by Gérard Depardieu) is apparently killed in his last case by a mysterious criminal, so his young admirer and biographer Etienne Boisset (Guillaume Canet) must solve the mystery of Vidocq's death and stop the criminal his idol couldn't catch.
Like in their previous collaborations, Pitof gives life to Marc Caro's designs with vivid colors and a beautiful photography. Aided by digital effects, Pitof creates a fantastical 18th century France that is both haunting and captivating. Loosely based on Vidocq's memories, Pitof and writer Jean-Christophe Grangé present a thrilling story of mystery, horror and dark fantasy that never becomes boring and is full of surprises.
Pitof's work in the U.S. (specially the awful "Catwoman") may turn off most people, but "Vidocq" is a completely different film. It is fresh, entertaining and very well designed. Unlike most Hollywood fantasy films, "Vidocq"'s flashy visuals never overshadow the plot and the cast. Despite being very prominent through the movie, the special effects serve their purpose without becoming the focus. While Pitof's film-making is very on the "style over substance" way of thinking, in "Vidocq" he seems to find the perfect equilibrium between them.
Depardieu is brilliant as Vidocq and it is hard to think of anybody else playing the part. He has aged well and gives the role the dignity and humor the character demands. Guillaume Canet is also good in the lead role and portrays the naiveté of the young biographer with vivid realism. The beautiful Inés Sastre completes the cast in a role that mixes glamor with a lot of sensuality.
Director Pitof's past as visual effects supervisor is latent, and while the digital effects are superb; his work with his cast is still a bit weak. Thanks to the talent of his actors this is not really a problem, but at times it still feels that Pitof prefers to work with computers than with people.
"Vidocq" is a movie to be entertained, and it serves its purpose perfectly. It is certainly not a thought-provoking movie but a movie to let the imagination fly. Like the early Caro-Jeunet collaborations, "Vidocq" is a dark fantasy for the inner child that still wants to venture in worlds of wonder. This Gothic tale of mystery and suspense is the perfect antidote to the mindless action films of the last decades. 7/10
This film is similar to another recent French film the Brotherhood of the Wolf. They are both similar visual treats in which the actors are there to complement the spectacle. Vidocq is not a bad film. Depardieu is at his best while doing films in his native French. It was good to see him in this type of role and film. It was fun watching him (though he could shed a few pounds now and then). The supporting cast is excellent as well. This is a 19th century France that is gritty and the streets are approached from an angle of realism. It's the 19th century and you feel like it is right around the corner. It breathes life. Well done and leaves you looking forward to the next work of this director.
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