Three beat up pickpockets decide to take on the Paris metro and see what fate has got for them. The youngest one, Franck Spadone (Stanislas Merhar, La Captive), approaches a beautiful dark-haired woman (Monica Bellucci, Irreversible) and quietly steals her purse. She is unaware. As the woman exits the metro he looks in her eyes.
At a nearby bistro the trio follows the routine: they sit silently, have a drink, and count the profit.
On the following day Franck Spadone heads to a pricey locale where in the wee hours men pay to see beautiful women dance. This is where Laura, the girl from the metro, works. The thief wants to take one final look at her before he returns the stolen purse.
I do not know whether or not I am going to disappoint many by stating that I absolutely loved this film but I am willing to take my chances and face the consequences of such confession. By all means necessary I believe that actor-director Richard Bean's debut Franck Spadone (2000) is near perfect!
Using the typical for the neo-noir genre ingredients – sad, out of luck, and shady characters, twisted plot, lack of excessive dialog, moody soundtrack, and a stunningly beautiful woman to put all of the controversial fragments of this film together – Franck Spadone is one cool and sexy piece of cinema.
Dropping dialog in favor of a hooky soundtrack that will make the hearts of trip-hop and white-jazz connoisseurs leap with joy (writer-composer Olivier Lebe must have spent a great deal of time listening to the likes of Massive Attack and Portishead all the way through Japanese gurus DJ Krush and Toshinori Kondo) the picture virtually places its audience in a state of trance. The smoky bars, the dim lights, the chic Parisian cafes where the protagonists spend plenty of time drinking espresso, everything in Franck Spadone has to do with style. And the more cinematographer Philippe Van Leeuw (La Vie de Jesus) spends time exacerbating it the less we hear the actors talk. They seem to be following a complex script where less is more.
Style isn't all that Franck Spadone offers however. The story while seemingly one-dimensional veers off in a dark territory where a lot appears incomprehensible. Perfectly dressed men discuss, argue, and ponder shady deals then quickly disappear in the dark leaving the viewer guessing what precisely takes place on the screen (during a key scene at the end of the film a large fragment of the story is intentionally left unsubbed while a group of mafiosi converse in Portuguese). Yet fittingly enough director Richard Bean and his talented cast provide a twisted finale that truly compliments the moody aura of the film. One that I also failed to see coming!!
How Does the DVD Look?
There are some good and some bad news about this release!! The good news is that the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and has been enhanced for widescreen TV's. It does appear to be exactly the same cut of the film that was released earlier (though with horrific quality and some serious faults in the image department).
The bad news...pretty much everything else! Franck Spadone has been given the dreaded PAL-NTSC treatment and what is even worse is that most side effects associated with it are detectable here. "Ghosting", combing, aliasing, and digital noise are a few of the more prominent occurrences on this disc as well as the unstable color-scheme which I am particularly unhappy with given the film's rich and very, very subtle camera work. Aside from that even though the cover of the DVD claims that this is the "Unrated Version" of the film I did not notice any specific difference between this new disc and the old one which I still believe is in circulation. The print is slightly better (those of you who have seen the old disc know that there was an issue with aspect ratio-composition as everything looked stretched out) and at least allows for a marginally satisfying viewing experience but it is nowhere near close the "acceptable" mark!
How Does the DVD Sound?
The audio presentation is on par with the video treatment: slightly below average and disappointing! As mentioned earlier in the review the film has a top-notch soundtrack and either a DTS track or a 5.1 mix would have been preferable here. As it is what the R1 distrib has provided is a French 2.0 mix and forced white English subtitles.
Other than a gallery of stills there is absolutely nothing else to be found on this DVD.
I enjoyed every single minute of Franck Spadone and must admit that together with Cedric Klapisch's Ni Pour, Ni Contre (Bien au Contraire) I consider it one of the sexiest crime dramas to come out of France in the last couple of years. It is also precisely what I find appealing when it comes to modern French noir...and more. Surely many will disagree with my judgment!!