Film Review: Wild Target (Cible émouvante)

Second Sight Films
DVD On release

By Guy Sangster Adams

“I shall be severe, but show affection occasionally,” says fifty-something, professional hitman, Victor Meynard (Jean Rochefort), outlining the terms of the ‘stage’, or internship, he offers to an artless, young messenger, Antoine (Guillaume Depardieu), rather than killing him, after Antoine inadvertently witnesses one of Victor’s hits. Motivated by the fact that is unmarried, and has no heir to whom he can pass on the family business of killing, the perks Victor offers as part of his proposal to train Antoine in the ways of assassination include a Carte Orange (the unlimited travel pass for Paris, which has just been replaced by the ‘Navigo’).

But it seems that Victor’s midlife crisis is gathering pace when he not only fails to carry out his next assignment, to kill a beautiful art forger and petty thief, Renée Dandrieux (Marie Trintignant), who has duped a gangster into buying a fake Rembrandt, but also begins to fall for her, as the seemingly ill-assorted trio go on the run from the gangster.

Wild Target (Cible émouvante) is a masterful black comedy, with a wonderful mix of impressively realised knock about farce, subtle comedic moments, and a gripping thread of menace, which earned its writer and director, Pierre Salvadori, a César nomination for Best First Work, when it was originally released in 1993. Rochefort’s performance is superlative, indeed all three lead actors give superb performances, and the crackling interplay between them, and also with Madame Meynard (Patachou), Victor’s gloriously batty and utterly ruthless mother, creates a thoroughly enjoyable film.

Both the now octogenarian Rochefort, whose career spans five decades, and nonagenarian Patachou (aka Henriette Ragon), are and continue to be much loved and legendary figures of French cinema and theatre. Trintignant and Depardieu, both born into famous French acting families, became favourite actors for Salvadori to work with, taking roles both in his next film, Les apprentis (1995), and again sharing the lead roles in White Lies (Comme elle respire, 1998). Very sadly, both subsequently died at an early age. Trintignant died in 2003, aged 41, of a cerebral edema as a result of being punched by her boyfriend Bertrand Cantat, lead singer with the French rock group, Noir Désir, and  Depardieu died in 2008, aged 37, after contracting severe viral pneumonia whilst filming L’Enfance d’Icare on location in Romania.

A British remake of Wild Target, starring Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, and Rupert Grint has just been released.

Second Sight Films

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