A loose remake of the 1970s film Fingers starring Harvey Keitel, but transferred to France, this 2005 film was directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone). Tom, played by Romain Duris, is a real estate broker who’s involved with very shady deals. His business partners spend their time chasing immigrants and squatters out of buildings. His father, Robert (Niels Arestrup), is involved with similarly dodgy enterprises and sometimes calls on Tom to do his dirty work.
However, Tom has a softer side—a desire to be a concert pianist like his late mother. He becomes increasingly obsessed with playing, hiring a non-French-speaking woman, Miao Lin (Linh Dan Pham) to prepare him for his audition. In the midst of this, his father gets in way over his head with some Russian gangsters, while Tom lets his attention to business slide in favour of music.
The film is clearly intended as a neo-noir, something the French always love, set in the world of the big-city slumlord. It achieves the look and feel, especially in the climax, which has all the quintessential film noir characteristics. A well-paced film, it runs at a solid speed through its 107 minutes. Very much a character study despite having some crime/gangster components, Duris’ powerful psychological performance has propelled him to international stardom, following a series of well-received roles in French films.
Fitting its theme, the film uses music to good effect, with a mix of classical and electronic music. It was superbly shot by cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine, who went on to work with the director on his subsequent films.
The Artificial Eye Blu-Ray release includes over an hour of interviews, mostly with the director; 26 minutes of deleted scenes; and a 51-minute Q&A from the film’s premiere in London.