Before I even begin talking about FLEUVE NOIR (The original French title which I’m going to use for the rest of the piece because I’m CLASSY), I must first let everyone know about my long-standing love for Vincent Cassel. The first film I ever saw him in was Gaspar Noe’s soul-wrenching masterpiece, Irreversible. His role in Eastern Promises is incredible and then there’s his unnerving performance as the douchebag dance instructor in Black Swan. Also, I’m going to kick myself later if I don’t mention the groundbreaking, awe-inspiring La Haine. If you haven’t seen it, I’m turning this car around right now! Go watch La Haine and then continue reading the article.
Anyway, I am also obsessed with police procedurals, probably having to do with the fact that I lived with my grandparents as a child and saw more Matlock, Columbo, and Murder She Wrote than the inhabitants of every nursing home in the country. I have also seen every episode of Law & Order SVU twice (or more) and I loved both seasons of True Detective. Basically, you name a police procedural, I’ve watched it, except for Blue Bloods, which maybe I’ll watch that eventually but I’m just not sure if I can bring myself to do so.
FLEUVE NOIR is very much in the vein of True Detective. Cassel plays Detective Francois Visconti (bravo if you caught the easter-egg in his last name), a bitter alcoholic police commander in Paris. At the outset of the film, Visconti is screaming at his son Denis (Felìx Black in his debut role) in a questioning room at the police department for getting into trouble for selling drugs. His son and he are estranged at best and he and Felix’s mother are divorced because she cheated on him.
Next we see Detective Visconti in the Arnault household with Solange Arnault (Sandrine Kiberlain; Alias Betty, For Sale) who is concerned for her son who has been missing for less than the customary 24 hours. Visconti doesn’t take Mrs. Arnault very seriously and certainly doesn’t expect to hear more about the case. Then a day passes and an official case is open. Detective Visconti originally believes that Dany Arnault’s disappearance may have something to do with the same group of thugs and drug dealers with whom his son is involved, the Jihad gang. On top of the trauma of her missing son, Mrs. Arnault also has a special-needs child named Marie who she has to care for on her own. Her husband, Raphael (Jèrôme Pouly; Friday Night, The Look Out) works as a mechanic on a ship and is gone for months at a time.
At first, Detective Visconti is too caught up with his own issues to have too much of a focus on the Arnault case. He happens to run into the Arnault’s neighbor and Dany’s former tutor Yann Bellaile (Romain Duris; All the Money In the World, Moliere) in the elevator on his way out of the building. Then the next day, an anonymous call comes through to the police department saying that a corpse has been found in the woods. Bellaile is there as a volunteer the next day when Visconti, the police department and other volunteers are searching for evidence related to Dany’s disappearance. Bellaile repeats the phrase “corpse in the woods” to Visconti even though the phone call was not revealed to the public. Visconti then becomes incredibly suspicious of Bellaile. I’ll stop right there in the plot progression, but I will say that, like in most police procedurals, things are definitely not what they seem to be in FLEUVE NOIR.
Beloved French director Erick Zonca (The Dreamlife of Angels, Julia) returned to filmmaking after a decade to sit at the helm of this adaptation of the novel The Missing File by Dror Mishani. His attention to detail and adoration of the characters is palpable throughout the film. While FLEUVE NOIR is very distinctly a police procedural thriller, Zonca (who co-wrote the adaptation with Lou de Fanget Singolet) finds ways to make it something more than that. A meditation on love and family and how those things mean very different things to different people, in addition to a take-no-prisoners examination of mental illness and it’s effects on creativity and productivity.
FLEUVE NOIR or as we’ll all come to know it in the US, BLACK TIDE, premiered at Fantasia Film Festival on July 27th. Its US premiere date has yet to be announced but I highly suggest you go catch this film when it comes out here. Especially if you’re like me and you love cop dramas and Vincent Cassel!!!