Les amitiés maléfiques (2006)
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Critic Reviews for Les amitiés maléfiques
[Emmanuel Bourdieu] turns a standard coming-of-age premise -- four young literary scholars compete for recognition at a Paris university -- into a biting academic fable.
Poison Friends is at once a sly satire on the pretensions and aspirations of academia and an intellectual suspense-thriller that builds and builds but never loses credibility.
It's intellectual without being dry, dramatic without bombast, smart without posturing.
While the young people chatter about life and literature with sometimes overbearing self-satisfaction, the astute filmmaker observes their pretentious gum-flapping with a mixture of amusement, compassion, and wised-up rue.
Audience Reviews for Les amitiés maléfiques
[size=3][color=black]Poison Friends, a new French film, isn't very good, but there's something compelling in its story. Perhaps a better filmmaker could have made a better movie out of the script.[/color][/size]
[size=3]The story centers on four male college students that are studying literature. Everyone in France studies literature, but these four are serious.[/size]
[size=3]They quickly form a friendship circle with one guy as the ringleader. He is the most intensely intellectual student at the university, it seems, and he speaks with professors as a peer. He is also very radical. Despite believing that one must read everything (he seems to have read every book by both French and American authors and every piece of criticism about them), he believes that writing is vile. [/size]
[size=3]His hero is a philosopher who said that the people who write are those who are too weak [u]not[/u] to write. Certainly an unusual philosophy, and I would have loved to hear why he believed this. But he never explains it. He just delivers it over and over with fierce commitment.[/size]
[size=3]His friends seem to think it's an interesting philosophy, even though they never hear an explanation for it either. They begin to question their own interest in writing. One character even throws out a manuscript that he'd been working on for apparently a very long time. Another one is so embarrassed when a short story of his is published that he doesn't tell anyone. But word does get out, and he's pretty brutally humiliated by the whole group.[/size]
[size=3]It is very strange to see them all cowering before this intellectual bully and following his lead on everything. He starts ordering them around, telling them how they should pursue their careers, for example, even how they should date people, and they do whatever he says.[/size]
[size=3]One especially bizarre sequence involves a love letter. When the bully learns that his friend has written a love letter to a girl, he orders him to go to the girl's mailbox and set it on fire to destroy the letter. All writing is vile, and love letters are the worst, he says. Despite this character seeming quite intelligent, he does set the fire![/size]
[size=3]While all of this struck me as wildly implausible, I did get kind of captivated by watching these boys become diminutive in the face of intellectual browbeating.[/size]
[size=3]The poisonous quality of the friendship becomes most obvious when the bully appears to be sabotaging the other boys' success with girls. He seems driven by a level of sadism that is quite deep. And yet the boys all fawn over him. [/size]
[size=3]The girls too. The bully is particularly reprehensible with his girlfriend, who is secretly writing a novel. When he discovers the manuscript he does something that is shocking. I won't give it away; let's just say that this sequence reveals his character flaws as bordering on mental illness.[/size]
[size=3]The ringleader does experience a downfall, which he hides for some time in a blizzard of lies. But the lies eventually catch up to him. It is interesting to some degree to watch the bubbles all burst and this character get his comeuppance.[/size]
[size=3]But the incredible implausibility and extremity of how these boys get wrapped up in this bully sort of suffocate the story. It's hard to meditate on themes when the actions of the characters are so ridiculous. One character at the end says something along the lines of, I can't believe we ever let him cut off our balls. And how! If the story kept itself more within the bounds of believability, it might have explored this unique thematic territory with more success.[/size]
[size=3]The actors are quite good, but they clearly were directed to tone down their verve such that only the bully was radiant. But the actors looked like they were desperately trying to seem timid. They had so much character, beauty and intelligence coming out of their pores, that to see them acting like doormats rang false over and over.[/size]
[font=Century Gothic]In "Poison Friends", Andre Morney(Thibault Vincon) is the coolest of intellectual cats holding sway over his friends and fellow seminar students, would-be actor Alexandre Pariente(Alexandre Steiger) and Eloi Duhaut(Malik Zidi), son to a famous but unstable author, Florence Duhaut(Dominique Blanc), with his knowledge and charisma alone. While they enjoy hanging out with Andre, it is true that he also dominates the conversation. And in one case, he takes advantage of their confidence in wooing a comely librarian, Marguerite(Natacha Regnier).[/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"Poison Friends" is a nicely subtle character study that is also concerned with the very thought of ideas. Andre does pass on some knowledge, but he does not stop there, as he also manages to retard his friends' intellectual growth by not allowing them to think for themselves. Remember, it is always important to voice your own opinions, even if you disagree with others.[/font]
Halfway interesting story about a trio of classmates, where one domineers the other two but ultimately his bravado and ego prove to be his downfall. Fine acting holds your interest in this typical french film.
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