Movie  Valentin Valentin by Pascal Thomas
11/02/201508:42 Judith Prescott

Veteran director Pascal Thomas clearly has a taste for adapting novels by a particular brand of British crime writers. He has already directed four novels by the Grand Dame of British crime fiction Agatha Christie – By the Pricking of my Thumbs, Towards Zero, Crime is Our Business and Partners in Crime.
He now turns his hand to Ruth Rendell’s darkly humerous Tigerlily’s OrchidsRendell’s success as a writer lies largely in her in-depth exploration of the psychological backgrounds of criminals and their victims.
Valentin Valentin captures none of this and is a flat, dated, part-thriller, part love-story that favours the intricacies of a tangled plot at the expense of any real mystery.

The film opens with the discovery of Valentin’s dead body (Vincent Rottiers) in a park in an eastern suburb of Paris. Valentin was living alone in an apartment building filled with an assortment of odd characters, of whom anyone could be the murderer.Among them is Valentin’s possessive mistress Claudia (Marie Gillain) and her jealous husband Freddy (Louis-do de Lencquesaing). It could equally be Elodie (Marilou Berry), the young woman Valentin rejected; or the janitor Roger (François Morel), who fears Valentin has discovered his dirty secret. And the list goes on – there are so many suspects and so little time to delve into their psyche.
The owlish Valentin is blissfully unaware of the effect he has on the woman in his building and has become obsessed with the young Chinese woman who lives opposite. He suspects her of being held against her will. His only thought is how to rescue this damsel in distress.

The whodunit, a vital part of the murder mystery, has become irrelevant in Thomas’ retelling of the story. Who cares when we can plunge into the dreary lives of these apartment block tenants who, at first glance appear completely ordinary, but have double lives on closer inspection? But where the mix of people provides fertile ground for a descent into the absurd with a side order of black humour, this cast of self-obssessed, narcissists are detestable and bland. And what could be dark and intriguing ends us as creepy and disturbing. It’s a waste of a talented bunch of actors of both the older generation (Geraldine Chaplin, Arielle Dombasle, Morel, Gillain) and the younger (Berry, Rottiers, Agathe Bonitzer).

Last year, François Ozon, captured the complexity of Rendell’s psychological thrillers in the multi-layered 
Une Nouvelle Amie (The New Girlfriend) with Romain Duris in the lead role. Valentin Valentin is not in the same league.

Watch the trailer and let us know what do you think? 

I have worked as a journalist for 24 years both in London, England and now in Paris, France. I was a broadcast journalist for the English service of Radio France Internationale in Paris for 17 years before leaving to set up a blog for French cinema fans everywhere. I also worked as a reviewer of French films for The Hollywood Reporter and was a jury member for the Prix Michel d'Ornano at the Festival of American Films at Deauville. I am passionate about French films, both old and new, and want to share this passion with filmgoers around the globe.

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