The Black Box review

:. Director: Richard Berry
:. Starring: José Garcia, Marion Cotillard
:. Running Time: 1:30
:. Year: 2005
:. Country: France


The third directorial effort from actor Richard Berry (The Valet), and an adaptation of a novel by Tonino Benacquista (The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Read My Lips), The Black Box is one these thrillers that aim at blurring the lines between reality and dream.

As the film opens, we discover Arthur (José Garcia — Après vous, The Ax) in a hospital, suffering from amnesia and delusion as a result of a car accident. We then follow him as he tries to piece back together his fragmented memory. Some disturbing flashbacks — murders, a serial killer and the death of his brother — inject a strong dose of paranoia in his quest for truth.

While on paper, the premise of The Black Box looked interesting, more particularly as it stars stand-up comic wonder Garcia in a role against-type, it becomes clear from the first flashbacks that Berry takes the overcrowded David Fincher/Brian de Palma path to serve us a creepy exercise of style full of mystery.

I'm not sure if The Black Box aims at being a Hollywood-style film for the French or just a French film for Americans, but not only does the exercise lack personality stylistically — and I can tell you that David Fincher's universe is as far as it can be from Berry's public image — but this kind of mental confusion mumbo-jumbo has become so clichéd that the whole thing falls flat, suffering from its predictability — and the screenwriters must have been aware of the flaws of the narrative as they cooked up a far-fetched twist for an ending that is ridiculous.

Visually the film looks great and Berry's direction is pretty nervous, but why would you like to watch a second-rate David Fincher film — your video-store's shelves are already full of these kinds of products. So we're pretty much left with Garcia's performance, proving once again after his stint in The Ax that some of the best French-speaking comedic talents can also radiate an unexpected intensity and darkness when cast against-type — I'm also thinking about Albert Dupontel in Irreversible and Benoit Poelvoorde in Man Bites Dog.

  Fred Thom

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