Fantastic Fest 2017 Review: SEE YOU UP THERE Shows Us They Can Still Make 'Em Like They Used To

Albert Dupontel directed and stars in a winning offering.

Contributor; Seoul, South Korea (@pierceconran)
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Fantastic Fest 2017 Review: SEE YOU UP THERE Shows Us They Can Still Make 'Em Like They Used To

Classical cinema makes a return to the big screen in the engrossing adventure-drama See You Up There, a period yarn based on the novel of the same name by ace mystery thriller writer Pierre Lemaitre. Combining imagination, humor and heart to intoxicating effect, director and star Albert Dupontel has crafted one of the fall festival circuit's most winning offerings.

See You Up There begins in the trenches in World War I as French soldiers hunker down a dead man's land away from their German opponents. Though the armistice is declared a bloodthirsty sergeant tricks the Germans into a final conflict anyway, sending hundreds of men to their doom. Among them are Albert Maillard, a middle-aged accountant, and Edouard Péricourt, a young would-be painter. When the latter almost has his head blown off he begs the older man to fake his death and hide him from his domineering father.

Back in Paris, the pair begin to live together and eek out an existence which leads them down a criminal path as the young man, his face covered in increasingly elaborate masks of his own design, begins to sell fake sketches for war memorials. They enter a competition for a big memorial that will be financed by none other than the young man's father. Meanwhile, his sister has gotten married to their dastardly former sergeant.

Dupontel blends war drama, con artist thriller, comedy, romance and human drama in a film that explores issues of identity through characters that have either been forced to the sidelines (as veterans coming home to a poor job market) or chosen to abandon society as they grapple with their personal issues.

With a thrilling plot that bounces across locations, the film balances several genres through an absorbing atmosphere consisting of ravishing costumes (and masks) and stunning sets. Furthermore, the energy and technical polish of the production are undergirded by an irresistible charm and an emotional ballast owed to the film's rich characters.

Playing the frumpy but endearing hero Albert, Dupontel mines the pathos and sad sack appeal of Chaplin and other silent era comedy stars. His character dutifully looks out for his friend but is also driven by his own desire to live and eventually love.

Playing the flamboyant Edouard is Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, star of the Cannes Grand Prize winner 120 Beats per Minute. Playing a character who has lost his voice, Biscayart uses a range of vaudeville and more subtle emotive techniques to draw out the expressions of his character to delightful and at times heart-rending effect.

Devilishly charming and positively electric as the villain of the piece is Laurent Lafitte playing the war-hungry sergeant who quickly takes advantage of Paris following the end of wartime hostilities. Viewers may recognize Lafitte from Paul Verhoeven's Elle, in which he memorably played Isabelle Huppert's neighbor.

A fulfilling big screen experience that expertly stages a wonderful tale, See You Up There shows us that they can still make 'em like they used to.

Au revoir l-haut

Director(s)
  • Albert Dupontel
Writer(s)
  • Albert Dupontel
  • Pierre Lemaitre (book)
  • Pierre Lemaitre
Cast
  • Mélanie Thierry
  • Émilie Dequenne
  • Laurent Lafitte
  • Niels Arestrup
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Albert DupontelLaurent LafitteNahuel Pérez BiscayartPierre Lemaitresee you up thereword war IMélanie ThierryÉmilie DequenneNiels ArestrupDrama

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