More noise than signal

Trilogy 3 – After Life

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

If you’ve been following the Trilogy movies in its U.K. cinematic release order you may be forgiven for experiencing a little deja vu while watching the third and final movie, After Life. Focusing on the story of corrupt copper Pascal (Gilbert Melki) and his drug addicted wife Agnes (Dominique Blanc), what seems the majority of this movie is spent filling in Pascal’s supporting roles in the previous films, On The Run and An Amazing Couple. What new content there is shows Pascal’s increasing difficulty in obtaining morphine for his wife after local drug boss Jaquillat (Patrick Descamps) shuts down the supply until the left wing militant that’s gunning for him , Bruno Le Roux (Lucas Belvaux) is ‘neutralised’.

Refusing to do so even if he could locate the irritant, it’s not long before the morphine runs out sending Agnes into cold turkey. She breaks and tries to obtain some heroin, leading to her appearance in On The Run. Pascal struggles with his conscious as he carries out his actions of the other films which I won’t repeat here but suffice to say they aren’t particularly endearing. The difference now being that there’s an element of understanding of his difficult and rather pathetic situation which means it’s possible to have some sympathy with the man. In the previous films without this depth of understanding he seemed to be a man who is nothing more than a objectionable vagabond with little or no common decency, certain unbecoming in a supposed upholder of the law.

Agnes plans fail, leaving her in considerable pain although by the films conclusion she decides to kick this filthy habit, leading to an extremely bizarre reaction from Pascal which can I suppose only be explained by stress or a cinematographer’s need to end the series in a pretty location.

The above makes it sound as though there’s about five minutes of footage you haven’t seen before in the previous movies. That’s not the case at all, it’s just the new material seems to be mostly supporting the old material. By the end you’ll have a far better understanding of each characters motivations and indeed it’s only by watching them all that you can explain certain characters seemingly unusual actions. As a stand alone film it leaves After Life in something of a quandary.

Pascal performs some pivotal roles in the other flicks, so there is a fair degree of cross over. This means scenes are lifted straight from those films. Seeing as On The Run is a thriller, An Amazing Couple is a comedy and the new scenes in this film are fairly heavy on the melodrama it’s far more of a style clash mish mash than is strictly healthy.

I’ve no real knowledge of any of the actors involved in Trilogy‘s previous work but on this basis I’d say Melki and Blanc are the weakest present. Agnes’ erratic whining, complaining and eventual screaming at poor Pascal is overblown as befits a melodrama but quickly becomes irritating. Melki builds sympathy for his character through his caring for and interaction with his wife, but in the next scene he’s off being a knob to someone else again. More than the other films, this feels too scrappy and piecemeal. Perhaps as an individual movie After Life would do better sacrificing some of Pascal’s actions from the other films in favour of concentrating on his emotional side.

That would probably ruin the Trilogy experiment though, which director and writer Lucas Belvaux has otherwise succeeded in doing something interesting at least. After seeing all three movies there is a better understanding of why a minor character in one film is acting the way they do, as it’s explained by their actions in another movie where they have a greater role. I believe Belvaux said he was trying to answer the question of what supporting characters do when not on the screen. His answer would appear to be that they star in their own film of whacky misadventures. Life in a film is so much more interesting than my own even as a minor character. How horribly depressing.

Of course, he was also keen to have each film work as a stand alone movie. With this he’s had more limited success, and it seems that the greater the crossover the weaker the film. On The Run and An Amazing Couple have very little intersection and I think they work reasonably well on their own. After Life seems to suffer more from feeling like a patchwork cut from the cloth of the other two, although I wonder how I’d feel about it had I seen the movies in a different order.

I’m sure I wouldn’t have liked this much anyway. It’s not a terrible movie but it’s not doing anything you haven’t already seen before a goodly number of times, although admittedly you might not have seen it done in French. I feel the story too tired, the performances too over the top and the film overall too stylistically incoherent to care much about or recommend, to the tune of a mere 2 TippyMarks if you’ve not been following the otherTrilogy films. If you have, it’s worth seeing not necessarily for it’s own sake but to enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the other movies. A strange judgement for a strange experiment, and an experiment that is certainly recommended for avid movie fans.