I saw at a friends The Beat My Heart Skipped recently. It’s a French film starring Romain Duris, a big star in France but pretty unknown more widely. He plays a property gangster, part of a gang who buy up freeholds, evict tenants through menace and violence, then by obtaining building permits through bribery and sell on the property for big profits. He stalks the streets of Paris walkman on, leather jacket done up, cigarette in hand, as a quintessentially French stylish violent hardman. Yet – and what a big yet – a chance meeting re-ignites his childhood passion for the classical piano. The plot of the film revolves in no small part around his attempts to pass an audition and be taken on as a concert pianist by a leading manager. This is played completely straight, not a hint of irony or bathos. (see the clip which sees him lay into his Vietnamese piano tutor with frightening intensity)
Now imagine the same plot with a British actor. Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch could do the tortured would-be maestro. No shortage of heavies and hard men. Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston to name but two. But the same actor? Only a French film could play such a proposition straight: one minute hammering out Bach’s Toccata and Fugue, the next hammering up dark stairs with a bag of rats to help evict another unlucky family (you see I can’t even write this straight).
What other films depend entirely on their national culture for plausibility?