Directed and written by real-life partners Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri Look at Me (Comme Une Image) is a perfect example of why French and Hollywood cinema have little in common, if at all.
Lolita (Marilou Berry) is a twenty years old, visibly overweight, girl who aspires to become an opera singer. Unfortunately her father and famous writer Etienne Cassard (Jean-Pierre Bacri) has little interest in his daughters' aspirations and prefers being left alone working on his books. When he is not consumed by his career Etienne shows more interest in his much younger wife. However, both his personal life and career prove to be too demanding and stressful for Etienne and he visibly struggles to maintain that delicate yet often elusive balance that would keep them in tact. He is an egoist.
Lolita's singing teacher, Sylvia (Agnes Jaoui) is equally swamped with problems that have raised a red flag in a relationship that more and more resembles a poorly made for TV soap opera. On a positive side her husband's meager attempts to become a successful writer after years of lackluster press reviews have finally delivered the needed result. His latest book is praised by the critics in Paris.
With the exception of Etienne all of the main characters in Comme Une Image undergo some sort of a positive transformation that changes their personalities for the better. They grow a bit wiser, they manage to relate to other people and their daily struggles, they also seem to be delicate enough when emotions are running high. For Etienne, however, life has a whole different meaning and forgiveness, tact, and compassion are not necessarily a part of it.
Comme Une Image relies on a number of clichés often seen in films that deal with the subject of family dysfunction, yet everything in it feels razor-sharp and fresh. In addition, none of the main characters appear faultless as they all struggle to overcome the stigma of social ineptitude. From Sylvia's unwillingness to commit and Lolita's struggle with the way she looks, to Etienne's intimidating mannerisms, everyone seems to be fighting a personal issue that has affected their lives in a negative way.
Characters such as Etienne are hardly a rarity. Over-confident, offensive, and ready to pay for whatever they can not otherwise acquire the likes of Etienne are dismissive even of their own kin. Interestingly enough when taken out of their shell they all appear weak, disorganized, and surprisingly innocuous. For example when Etienne's wife decides to leave after a pointless quarrel we see him crying and struggling to recollect his emotions. Only so we could moments later witness his abusive behavior and sarcastic remarks directed at his daughter's physical appearance.
Given the complex yet delicate transformation that each character in Comme Une Image undergoes this film is a tremendous success. The extreme range of emotions that each actor showcases is impressive. And that is exactly what separates this witty French social comedy from most of the films that Hollywood produces. Comme Une Image is not your typical politically correct picture where everything comes to a logical conclusion. The social meanness which the film delivers is unprecedented as it challenges pretty much every sensitive social status quo you might think of.
Marilou Berry is without a doubt the perfect cast for the role of Lolita. Her self-destructive criticism, passion to outgrow even her own father, and above all inspiring range of emotions elevates Comme Une Image to another level. Couple that with Jean-Pierre Bacri's cold perfectionism and you have a film that stands out among everything else being produced nowadays by delivering a deadly strike to conventionalism in modern cinema.
How Does the DVD Look?
Sony Pictures Classics have presented Comme Une Image in a rather attractive print which preserves the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The DVD is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TV's. With this said the image appears rather soft and especially during night scenes it lacks visibly in terms of contrast. In my opinion the image softness will be more noticeable if you view the film through a digital projector than if you choose to see it on a regular tube. In addition there is a very small amount of edge enhancement that for most viewers should not be an issue.
I attempted to compare the image quality to my R2 Pathe UK disc and the only visible difference I could see is the contrast level. The R2 appears slightly sharper and brighter (perhaps due to contrast boosting) when compared to the R1 version. Aside from that I don't see a reason why anyone would choose to upgrade to any of those versions if you already own either one of the previously mentioned versions.
How Does the Disc Sound?
Comme Une Image comes with a French 5.1 track, and optional English and Spanish subtitles, where the sound quality is of very high quality. There is a delicate balance between the abundance of classical (and modern) music in this film and the dialog which is handled perfectly. I did not notice any faults with the audio presentation worthy of discussion.
The extras on this DVD appear exactly the same as the ones provided for the R2 UK edition sans a "stills gallery" –
The Making of Look at Me-
Deleted Scenes (8 scenes)-
Previews (Bon Voyage, The Triplets of Belleville)-
I can not recommend Comme Une Image highly enough if you are looking for a film that defies clean-cut Hollywood productions. Witty, full of originality, as mean as it is provocative, Comme Une Image switches abruptly from being a razor-sharp comedy to a deadly social drama flawlessly. A meaningful and intelligently made piece of cinema that will appeal to those that like their films with a touch of spice. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.