Review: Au revoir la haut (2017)

Au revoir la haut (2017)

Directed by: Albert Dupontel | 118 minutes | crime, drama | Actors: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Albert Dupontel, Laurent Lafitte, Niels Arestrup, Émilie Dequenne, Mélanie Thierry, Héloïse Balster, Philippe Uchan, André Marcon, Michel Vuillermoz, Kyan Khojandi, Carole Franck

Survival is also relative. For example, many soldiers survived the First World War, but at the cost of the most horrific injuries. In the French feature film ‘Au revoir là-haut’, two soldiers who are friends return from the front. Soldier Albert Maillard intact, soldier and artist Edouard Péricourt with only half a face (the top), the fault of the tough Lieutenant Pradelle. The two friends retreat to a large studio, where they plan revenge on Pradelle with the help of the orphaned girl Louise. To stay alive, they turn to large-scale fraud (and war invalids).

It is almost impossible to put a genre on ‘Au revoir là-haut’. Not a comedy, although there is plenty to laugh about. Not a crime film, although there is enough haggling. Not a war drama, although the film starts with a 15-minute war spectacle. ‘Au revoir là-haut’ is particularly reminiscent of the work of great 19th-century storytellers such as Victor Hugo (‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’) and Alexandre Dumas (‘The Count of Monte Christo’). The story is completely boarded up, is full of surprises, is not believable for a moment and sometimes tends to the grotesque. A story that captivates from the first to the last minute.

If the story isn’t compelling enough, the visuals and effects do the rest. They are reminiscent of the playful early work of Jean Pierre Jeunet (‘Amélie’, ‘Un long dimanche de fiançailles’). We see from above how someone is buried under an avalanche of envelopes, we follow a dog as a guide through the trenches and we experience the war as we have rarely experienced it. In addition, we see beautiful masks, of which a lion’s head made of banknotes makes the most impression.

The disadvantage of a plot-oriented and unrealistic film is that emotions, which should flow from the story, are not here. We see emotions but we don’t feel them. The casting is also not optimal, especially the way too round and blushing orphan Louise is not very appropriate. Because of those minuses, this ‘Au revoir là-haut’ is not a masterpiece. But still. Wonderful story, beautiful images, not to be missed film.

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