By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act January 4, 2012 at 12:41PM
First let me blow my own horn and say that S&A has been covering this French film and its black French star (Omar Sy) quiet extensively for a good 6+ months now; and I noticed a day or two ago, one mainstream news site picked up on all the transcontinental discussion about it (mostly French and American disagreements about its depiction of Omar Cy's character, which I expressed concern over from the very first time I wrote about the film in July 2011), and other sites picked up on that mainstream site's story as if it were something brand new.
But those who've been reading S&A will know where they heard of the film, its star, and all the *controvery* around it first!
Anyway... moving right along...
I already told you about how well the film has been received in France (despite all concerns), why that could be, and the impressive box office numbers it's been tallying. Just how impressive you might wonder? Well... according to new French box office reports, Intouchables is now ranked as the 5th highest grossing film in France box office history! Not the 5th highest grossing film of 2011, or of the last decade, or the last 25 years; but off ALL TIME!
And it's STILL in theaters in that country, so it could very well move even higher.
Ranked just ahead of it on France's all-time box office chart are Gone with the Wind, La Grande Vadrouille a 1966 WWII comedy, Welcome to the Sticks (another class-conscious socially-aware tale like Intouchables which, as I mentioned in a previous post, Will Smith optioned the remake rights to), and at the very top of the list is Titanic, which I guess shouldn't be a big surprise.
I can't claim to be fully up-to-speed on France's social/economic/political zeitgeist, so I can't adequately discuss why exactly a film like Intouchables, which, from what I've read written and spoken by French audiences of all skin colors, isn't even what you'd call a great film. But what I do understand from those same write-ups is that the appeal to audiences is apparently that the film is a local, funny, feel-good, hopeful movie, with relatable characters, and themes of class and racial unity instead of division, all of which make it attractive during these otherwise gloomy times.
I recall reading one commenter comparing it to The Help; essentially, a *safe* movie that appeals to white liberal sensibilities primarily. Oddly enough, my immediate reaction to Intouchables when I first read about it, and eventually saw the trailer, was how familiar it felt to movies like The Help, and The Blindside.
So, I suppose I can understand the attraction to Intouchables by The Weinstein Company who, as I've already mentioned in previous posts, acquired distribution rights to the film, as well as USA remake rights, which means we'll either get to see the original movie in USA theaters, or a remake by the Weinsteins starring who knows in Omar Cy's role.
But as one stateside review of the film put it, the role would have to be significantly re-written in order not to offend American audiences, calling it racist. The French certainly didn't care for Variety's review.
And by the way, thanks in part to the success of Intouchables, French cinema attendance hit a 45-year high!
Omar Cy has been hailed by some in France as a *blossoming black cinema icon,* as he's on track to win the French equivalent of the Oscar for Best Actor next February.
And he's already shooting his next feature, another interracial pairing, this time a buddy-cop action comedy titled On The Other Side Of The Tracks.
But wow, the 5th highest grossing film of all time in France's box office history is certainly something worth mentioning. And I hope we get to finally see the original film here in the USA (whether on DVD or in theaters) so that we can judge for ourselves.
I imagine there's likely a download of it somewhere online; not that I'm encouraging piracy :)
For those just joining us, here's the film's trailer: