Canadian distributor Mongrel Media bring yet another "missing in action" recent European production with an impressive cast. Written by Christopher Thompson (Avenue Montaigne) and directed by Thierry Klifa Le Heros de la Famille a.k.a Family Hero (2006) is likely to attract the attention of those who follow French cinema closely yet are limited to R1 product only.
Similar to Patrice Chereau's bitter-sweet Ceux qui m'aiment prendront le train a.k.a Those Who Love Me Can Take The Train (1998) a tragic event instigates an unlikely reunion in Family Hero. Extravagant behavior, melodramatic confessions, and plenty of broken hearts, provide the blue print for a long but ultimately satisfying story where colorful characters bare their souls.
Gabriel Stern (Claude Brasseur), owner of the famous night locale Blue Parrot, is found dead. His closest friend and surrogate son Nicky (Gerard Lanvin), who has fallen for a sultry singer (Emmanuelle Beart), is expected to look after the club.
Marianne Bensalem (Geraldine Pailhas), a top editor with an attitude, and her half-brother Nino Bensalem (Michael Cohen), head to the funeral. Nino, who is also gay, invites his younger boyfriend Fabrice (Pierrick Lilliu).
Marianne's mother Simone (Miou-Miou) isn't on good terms with Nicky, even though many years ago they shared the stage together, but does her best to behave properly. When Nino's mother Alice (Catherine Deneuve) arrives in town Marianne is caught off guard.
After the funeral Gabriel's will is read. Marianne and Nino are the new owners of the Blue Parrot. Nicky is devastated.
With an all-star cast who handle the delicate script impressively well Family Hero proves that Thompson is well-versed in the comedie-dramatique genre. Tiptoeing between comedy, satire, drama, and romance pic never bores with its protracted but catchy dialogs. The main protagonists act as if time is never an issue even though with a similar script and less than experienced group of actors the final product here could have been questionable. On the contrary, under Klifa's direction the rhythm is perfect.
Pic is conveniently wrapped up in mellow cabaret tunes which provide an extra cozy feeling of comfort, a sense of style which isn't overdone. Emmanuelle Beart's character in particular arouses the senses with bluesy, and notably well arranged, songs.
The finale isn't necessarily logical but most certainly, given pic's playful side, quite straightforward. All of the main protagonists, more or less, come to terms with their past. A few even forget old feuds noting that Gabriel's death has given their lives a new start.
How Does the DVD Look?
If not for the fact that we have yet another PAL-port from Mongrel Media I must say that the print is practically flawless. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TVs this transfer is spotless: not a single speck or scratch, absolutely no dirt. Edge-enhancement is kept to a minimum while contrast is delicately handled. Obviously those of you with progressive sets will quickly notice the dreaded "ghosting" which for the most is, I suppose, tolerable. I can not help but think however what would have this presentation looked like had Mongrel Media converted their print properly. More than likely I would have ended up giving this disc five stars. What a missed opportunity.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Unlike the French disc, which offers a 5.1 track, what we have here is only a DD 2.0 French mix. I consider this to be quite a disappointment given the lovely soundtrack already mentioned earlier. The dialog however is easy to follow, crisp, and clear. The optional English subtitles are well done. I did not detect any disturbing audio drop-outs or hissings.
Quite unfortunately there isn't a single piece of supplemental material to be found on this disc.
I loved every single bit of this film. Incredibly well-acted, provocatively extravagant, with a distinctive sense of class! The all-star cast is nothing short of spectacular. This being said I am saddened by the fact that Mongrel Medial continue to deliver improperly converted transfers. How hard could it be to switch a button and make sure that the PAL-NTSC conversion is properly done? Knowing that currently there isn't another English friendly version: Recommended.