Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1

MESRINE: PUBLIC ENEMY #1 features a heavier, more famous Jacques Mesrine. No longer using material from Mesrine's autobiography, the second film follows the later exploits of the criminal. Mesrine's growing celebrity did not stop him from robbing banks, shooting people, and plotting right up to his final days.

He claimed no prison could hold him and that seemed to be the case, for PUBLIC ENEMY #1 features yet another prison break. He grants an interview with one reporter, yet kidnaps and murders another. He robs one bank and after he's done, he impulsively crosses the street to hit another one.

I liked this one a great deal, though after my initial viewing I think I preferred KILLER INSTINCT just a tad bit more. I think that this was at least in part due to the character Jeanne Schneider, played by Cecile de France. There is something quintessentially French about her, smoking cigarettes alone in the bar where she initially meets Mesrine, her eyes obscured behind the tint of her glasses. Mere film-seconds later we see her wielding a shotgun, aiding and abetting Jacques with an armed robbery. It seems for a moment that the film is shaping up to be a Bonnie and Clyde style crime picture, but not so. Their time together, as it seems Mesrine's time with anyone, is brief. The romanticism of KILLER INSTINCT is significantly diminished in PUBLIC ENEMY #1.

That is the jarring thing about both of the MESRINE films. There seems to be no overarching story. Characters come and go, MESRINE is constantly shifting its focus, and events seem downright episodic. In that sense, it is a lot like a life. More like a book than a movie, perhaps. Movies have always been these tightly-structured things that strive to tie up all the loose ends. The MESRINE films are not like that. He seems to align himself with whoever is around. There is no overarching story except that of Mesrine himself. Mesrine does not seem to be motivated by mere wealth and the interview he grants Liberation seems to confirm that he wants something more, a sort of freedom, an utterly unconventional life. It is the first time we see Jacques involved in any kind of introspection.

There is a sort of warning at the beginning of each film. Life is a complex thing, it warns, and to accurately transpose a human life into a film is an impossible task (or something to that effect). I like that. It made me chuckle a bit. It seems very French.

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