Played by charismatic French actor Romain Duris, the hero of stylish psychological thriller The Big Picture (original title: L’Homme Qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie – The Man Who Wanted to Live His Life) is one of those restless cinematic protagonists who seizes the chance to reinvent himself
He resembles Patricia Highsmith’s oft-filmed Mr Ripley in some respects, but as he’s a man with far more scruples and far less cunning than Highsmith’s amoral anti-hero, it’s unclear whether he has the talent to get away with his own spur-of-the-moment scheme.
At first glance, however, you’d wonder why Duris’s Paul Exben would want to change his life. He is a successful Parisian lawyer who appears to enjoy a perfect existence with his beautiful wife and their two children, but he secretly yearns for the creative life his younger self dreamed of pursuing. Then comes the discovery that his wife is having an affair, swiftly followed by a tragic accident that spurs him to abandon his old life and create a new identity for himself as a photographer. Holed up in picturesque seclusion in the Balkans, however, he gradually discovers that shaking off the past isn’t quite so easy.
All the same, we’re rooting for him, notwithstanding his flaws – and his efforts to evade fate prove consistently engaging and sometimes gripping, despite one or two niggling holes in the plot – in today’s internet age, it’s far harder to be slippery about your identity than it was back in 1997, which was when the novel by Douglas Kennedy on which the film is based was published. Even so, Duris’s vulnerable charm and classy supporting performances from Catherine Deneuve and Niels Arestrup keep The Big Picture tightly in focus.
Released on DVD & Blu-ray by Artificial Eye.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.