Pras on World Films: THE INTOUCHABLES

The Intouchables is an award  starring Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet. A moving true story of 2 men – a quadriplegic aristocrat who was injured in a paragliding accident and a young man from the projects. When together, they’re inseparable, intouchable.

The film by French writer/directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, is the inspiring true story of two men who should never have met—a quadriplegic aristocrat who was injured in a paragliding accident and a young man from the projects. Its a portrait of friendship across the racial and economic divide. Francois Cluzet plays Philippe, who was paralyzed in a hang-gliding accident and now lives in a Parisian mansion attended by nervous servants. While interviewing new caregivers, Philippe meets Driss, a a tough young Senegalese man from the Paris projects  who’s only applying for the job so he can get his unemployment check. Impressed by Driss’ bluntness and lack of sympathy, Philippe hires Driss and moves him into his mansion, where Driss reluctantly learns his duties from the housemistress (played by Anne Le Ny) and in the process, helps Philippe to loosen up and embrace life. By making Driss and Philippe fully realized characters (the film is based on a true story) with histories and lots to learn about life and each other, The Intouchables manages to escape the trappings of the Magic Negro genre to be a film about an unlikely but wonderful friendship between actual humans.Its a a wildly successful French comedy that trades on racial cliches, manages to be charming and offensive at the same time.

They learn that sometimes you have to reach into someone else’s world to find what’s missing in your own. Not quite on doctor’s orders, And while Driss does help Philippe intouchablesembrace life beyond his disability, including a scene where Driss gets uptight white people at Philippe’s birthday party to boogie down to Earth, Wind, and Fire, it’s not a one-way exchange. Moving into Philippe’s mansion, Driss steps away from a background of poverty, family dysfunction and trouble with the police. Under his boss’s stern gaze and imperious tutelage he starts to acquire a work ethic and a sense of discipline. Through working with and spending time with Philippe, Driss surprises himself by becoming a much more caring and responsible person, realizing that there’s a bigger world out there and he has potential beyond hanging out and smoking weed with his friends. In exchange, he helps Philippe discover his appetite for life and his capacity for joy. He introduces Philippe to the pleasures of marijuana, encourages him to start dating and loosens up a stuffy chamber-music soiree with some funky music.

The Intouchables hit a nerve with French audiences, critics hailing it as a cultural milestone and Liberation asking, “Is this the new Amélie?” As Driss, television comedian Sy not only earned rave comparisons to Eddie Murphy but also took home the Best Actor Award at this year’s Césars, beating out none other than The Artist’s Jean Dujardin. In one of the best opening scenes in recent memory, a young black guy and an older white guy are slaloming through the streets of Paris in a Maserati with a parade of police on their tail.They’re clearly close friends, but what’s their story? How did they meet? What led to this impromptu high-speed chase? Funny you should ask … cue the film, which unreels as flashback.

In the old days the French view of America’s race problem (as it used to be called) was tinged with pity and superiority. African-American artists and intellectuals — Josephine Baker, Richard Wright, James Baldwin and too many jazz musicians to name — went to Paris to find respect and relief from the bigotry at home, and many contemporary French observers took this fact as confirmation of their own country’s relative innocence. More recently, as France has grappled with immigration and its rapidly evolving identity as a multicultural society, such smugness has dropped away, and much of the best recent French film and literature grapples earnestly with this new situation. America has a racial-guilt problem. France’s might be more insidious.  What “The Intouchables” does cannot exactly be called grappling, and its genial parade of stereotypes may be more regressive than liberating. Given its subject, embarrassment may be both inevitable and forgivable. Race, in France as in the United States, is a perpetual source of confusion and discomfort; to address it is always, in some way, to get it wrong. “The Intouchables” sets out to convert that anxiety into easy laughter and also, like “The Help” and “The Blind Side,” to replace antagonism and incomprehension with comfort and consensus.

the intouchables

“The film is about living together, about there being a French community rich in its differences and not in its exclusion,” explain Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, the youthful writing/directing team behind The Intouchables. The two key actors provide it with humanity and idiosyncrasy — with the sense that Philippe and Driss might be real people rather than sociological ciphers. The film shows that Driss is “real.” That’s part of the reason the movie is such a massive international hit. Driss represents the truth, and everyone else is fake. He’s been to prison and has been evicted by his mother for indolence; she’s got too many kids at home to put up with his distractions. In the end, “The Intouchables” wants to make race an afterthought — and it’s tempting to permit it. The characters positively ooze with a charisma that is infectious.

THE INTOUCHABLES  by writers/directors Olivier Nakache and Eric ToledanoSlide 6

We are overwhelmed by the reaction we have received from audiences around the world to The Intouchables, and it is with great anticipation that we bring this story to America. Our film’s message transcends race, age, religion and class, and that was clearly evident by the diverse crowds that went to see it.

The Intouchables is based on the true story of a highly unlikely friendship between Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, a white, quadriplegic millionaire, and Abdel Sellou, a young ex-con of Slide 5North-African origin, hired to be his live-in caregiver. The two men came from completely different backgrounds but learned to trust each other and develop a life-changing bond through honesty, mutual respect and subversive humor.   As filmmakers, we love having the creative freedom to transform a simple story like this one into a much larger message. It is very important to us to not only entertain but to be a part of something that starts smart conversation, and eventually leads to change. Today, it is more pertinent than ever to continue the conversations about the race and class issues in France.

Our aim was to make a feel-good film about friendship that would entertain audiences while maintaining the truth to Philippe’s and Abdel’s story. To our surprise the film has inspired an impassioned debate about one of France’s biggest social problems: socio-economic inequality between the privileged class and its marginalized neighbors, most of them having immigrant origins. An outpouring of articles, editorials, interviews and public discussions have pushed the subject into the bright glare of the media spotlight: immigrants and their direct descendants—from Morocco or Senegal, Algeria or Mali—are largely ghettoized in the projects outside of Paris with few opportunities to better their lives.

It would have been impossible to make a film this moving and entertaining without the genius of Omar Sy’s and François Cluzet’s performances. Both approached the roles as we approached making the film—with an open mind and a good sense of humor, and their chemistry off and on camera was remarkable.

We could not have predicted the overwhelming reception of The Intouchables in France. As the filmmakers of this tale of friendship, we set out to sketch an optimistic story in a realistic portrait of French society, one that combines the social and psychological gulf between French nativists and marginalized immigrants, between the upscale neighborhoods of Paris and the city’s poor suburbs. We hope you will enjoy this film with your own best friend or family.

Written and directed by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache; director of photography, Mathieu Vadepied; edited by Dorian Rigal-Ansous; music by Ludovico Einaudi; production design by François Emmanuelli; costumes by Isabelle Pannetier; produced by Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Yann Zenou and Laurent Zeitoun; released by the Weinstein Company. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes.

WITH: François Cluzet (Philippe), Omar Sy (Driss), Anne Le Ny (Yvonne), Audrey Fleurot (Magalie), Clothilde Mollet (Marcelle), Alba Gaïa Bellugi (Elisa), Cyril Mendy (Adama), Christian Ameri (Albert), Marie-Laure Descoureaux (Chantal) and Gregoire Oestermann (Antoine).

YOU SAVED MY LIFE by Abdel Sellou    You Changed My Life(The Book That Inspired “The Intouchables”)        You Saved My Life tells the extraordinary true story of the charming Algerian con-man whose friendship with a disabled French aristocrat inspired the record-breaking hit film, The IntouchablesSellou’s fictional reincarnation, Driss, played to critical acclaim by French comedian Omar Sy in the movie Les Intouchables, captured the hearts of millions with his edgy charm. Already a bestseller in France and Germany, You Changed My Life shows us the real man behind Sy’s smiling face. The book takes us from his childhood spent stealing candy from the local grocery store, to his career as a pickpocket and scam artist, to his unexpected employment as a companion for a quadriplegic.

Sellou has never before divulged the details of his past.  In many interviews and documentaries, he has evaded or shrugged off the question of his childhood and his stay in prison, until now. He tells his story with a stunning amount of talent, with humor, style, and—though he denies that he has any—humility. Sellou’s idiosyncratic and candidly charming voice. Abdel Sellou now lives in Algeria with his wife and three children, where he runs a chicken farm. He remains close to Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, who lives in Morocco with his second wife and two children.  
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