In All Innocence Review
Based on a novel by Georges Simenon, In All Innocence (“En Plein Coeur”) had already been adapted to the screen in 1958, starring Jean Gabin and Brigitte Bardot, under the story’s original title En Cas de Malheur (which indeed ends on a more pronounced note of misfortune than this adaptation). With a fine cast that sees Virginie Ledoyen capably slip into the modern equivalent of Bardot’s femme fatale role, this 1998 remake contains all of the elements of a fine French amour fou, but fails to convince in its execution.
Samira (Aurélie Vérillon) and Cécile (Virginie Ledoyen) are two young girls barely out of their teens, living together in Paris and doing whatever is necessary to get by and have a good time. They do some petty theft and pick pocketing, but they need ready cash more than credit cards, so they decide to hold up a jewellery store with a plastic toy gun. The robbery goes wrong however and Samira is arrested by the police. Cécile tries to enlist the services of a rich, high-class lawyer, Michel Farnèse (Gérard Lanvin), whose name she obtained from the wallet she stole from him the previous night. Despite the fact that she has no money and he no longer works on criminal cases, Farnèse agrees to take on her case - the sheer brazenness of the girl’s action, the fact that she lives in the neighbourhood in which he grew up and the challenge that the case represents are perhaps too much for him to resist. Or perhaps, as his wife Viviane (Carole Bouquet), his colleagues and Cécile’s drug-dealing boyfriend Vincent (Guillaume Canet) suspect, the lawyer is dangerously attracted to the young girl.
In All Innocence’s cast is great, they perform well and the film is well paced and clearly plotted. The director perhaps leads you along by the nose a little too easily and explains everything a little too clearly and efficiently, pointing out quite obviously the contrasts and incompatibilities of each of the characters diametrically opposed lifestyles, with no room for any genuine character development or real emotions to emerge and the whole thing comes across as just a little bit anonymous, functional and lacking any real character. The same could be said for the young Virginie Ledoyen (8 Femmes, Bon Voyage), who fits the bill here perfectly looking absolutely terrific, but is as ever blankly unreadable as the young hedonist who innocently rather than egotistically believes that she can get anything and everything she wants, with no thought for how her actions affect other people.
There’s only so much innocence you can take however and the main problem here is that no-one’s motivations or actions are the least bit credible. Cécile’s earnestly naïve attempt at robbing a jeweller’s with a toy gun and her determination to secure the services of an important lawyer despite having no money are expected to be explained by her simple nature of a young girl from the provinces with no knowledge of the ways of the world is a bit of a stretch in itself, but let’s accept that. Far less convincing however is that everyone else similarly has one grand cause that they pursue to the exclusion of everything else, even logic. Farnèse’s determination to pursue her case to the detriment of bigger, more important cases he is working on despite the fact that Cécile has no money and admits to having stolen from him – not to mention his belief that no-one will notice anything odd about this – seems out of character for such an important and careful lawyer. Viviane’s deep jealousy and suspicion of her husband’s motives without having anything to go on and long before anything actually happens is also out of proportion and character, though exceptionally well played by Carole Bouquet. Other characters follow similarly obsessive courses from the D.A.’s personal intervention into Farnèse’s affairs to Vincent’s relentless determination to win Cécile back, despite never really appearing to care much for her in the first place. All of their actions border on single-minded obsession with their being little psychological motivation to support this kind of behaviour. The foundation that the premise of the whole intrigue is built upon is then so shallow that subsequent events increasingly stretch one’s credulity until the film topples under the weight of its own melodrama.
In All Innocence is part of Pathé’s new “Your Other Cinema” range, presenting titles from their back catalogue unreleased so far on DVD in fairly barebones editions. Most of the titles reviewed so far on DVD Times (Les Destinées Sentimentales, Le Dîner de Cons and Ma Vie Sexuelle and On Connaît La Chanson) show that Pathé have put little effort into these releases and most have been in pretty poor condition. While it had no extra features at all, In All Innocence at least fares a little better in regard to its transfer than other titles seen so far. The film is presented on a single-layer DVD5 disc, in PAL format and encoded for Region 2.
The picture quality is very good indeed and even a step above Pathé’s standard new releases. The picture is presented anamorphically at 1.85:1, colours and tones are well defined, strong with even blacks and interiors showing a fair amount of detail. There are very few marks on the print and macro-blocking artefacts are scarcely visible. There is a faint level of grain, but it looks natural and causes no problems with the digital encoding.
Although the French release of the DVD apparently has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the film’s titles only indicate a stereo mix and the Dolby Digital 2.0 track presented here is clear and strong and certainly more than adequate.
Inevitably, the English subtitles are fixed on the transfer and cannot be removed.
There are no extra features on this release.
In All Innocence follows the l'amour fou theme seen in films like Damage and Le Pacte du Silence, where older men in positions of authority and responsibility – respectively in each of these films, a lawyer, an MP and a priest – put their position and standing at risk for the love of a young femme fatale. In All Innocence consequently suffers from the same problems that weigh heavily on the other two films – not so much the improbability of the self-destructive relationship (it would be hard to resist the not inconsiderable charms of either Ledoyen, Binoche or Bouchez) as the contrivances each of the films fall back upon to make it credible in the absence of convincing characterisation. Pathé’s DVD edition, while barebones, nevertheless presents the film very well.