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DVD Review: Tell No One

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French cinema never ceases to amaze me. The first time I saw Jean-Luc Godard’s ultra-futuristic new wave film noir Alphaville, I was hooked. My first encounter with Christophe Gans’ Le Pacte Des Loups (known in the U.S. as The Brotherhood Of The Wolf), I was mesmerized. There’s just something about French films that leave you wanting more.

Obviously, I am not the only one who is of that opinion: take for example the countless number of French movies that have been either remade, ripped-off, or altogether ruined by a slew of unimaginative American filmmakers: why, there’s La Cage Aux Folles and its Yankee counterpart The Birdcage; Le Femme Nikita and Point Of No Return; even 3 Men And A Baby drew its inspiration from a film called 3 Hommes Et Un Couffin – and the list goes on and on. Why do American moviemakers do it? Because, secretly (and they won‘t admit this), they know that the French have us licked when it comes to assembling a solid storyline and their ability to deliver the laughs and the thrills at just the right moment is dead on target (naturally, I’m excluding the works of Jean Rollin).

Let’s take a look at the case in point: the 2006 French hit Ne Le Dis À Personne. Known in English-speaking territories as Tell No One, this intriguing and well-made thriller from director Guillaume Canet walked away from the César Awards (the French equivalent of the Oscars) with four wins (Best Actor, Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Music) as well as five additional nominations (it has also received numerous nominations and wins worldwide). Two years later, it was released to American cinemas — and quickly found its way to the Top 10 lists of many film reviewers and publications (including Entertainment Weekly, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today — hell, even Rotten Tomatoes had it with a 96% positive rating).

As a result of Tell No One's success both internationally and domestically, Luc Besson and his French-based production company EuropaCorp are planning on making an English-language remake for the American market (because, let’s face it: we’re too lazy to read subtitles — not to mention that we just can’t fathom a Frenchman being the hero!). The ironic part here is that Tell No One is actually based on an American novel by writer Harlan Coben — and you can bet your sweet ass that the American version of the novel will be about as faithful to its source material as Ron Howard’s bastardized adaptation of The Da Vinci Code.

But I digress.

Getting back to the movie at hand, Tell No One is an enthralling drama about pediatrician Alexandre Beck (François Cluzet, who looks like the lovechild of Dustin Hoffman and Alan Thicke). Eight years ago, while visiting the serene and isolated lake in which he and his childhood sweetheart Margot (Marie-Josée Croze) had their first kiss and carved their initials into a tree, Alex’s life was forever changed when his beautiful wife was abducted and subsequently murdered by a serial killer.

Time has done nothing to mend Dr. Beck’s wounds: he still visits Margot’s parents on the anniversary of his beloved wife’s death; he hasn’t had the time for a new relationship; and he can still feel the cold and disbelieving eyes of the authorities who still suspect that Alex committed the crime himself.

Things go from bad to worse for our lamented hero when, one day, two bodies are discovered buried near the lake. The discovery also bears new evidence about Margot’s death — which prompts the police to reopen the case and once again set their sights on an innocent and tortured man. And then, a mysterious email appears on Alex’s computer — an email containing a video link with a familiar face — an email from his dead wife. As Alex’s fascination with the face in the link begins to border on an obsession, a group of thugs start to murder Margot’s old colleagues — and, once more, the police suspect Alex. With no other place to go, Dr. Beck relies on the assistance of a gangster named Bruno (Gilles Lellouche) to help him solve the mystery.

Boasting a magnificent supporting cast including André Dussollier, Kristin Scott Thomas, Nathalie Baye, Jean Rochefort, Philippe Lefebvre (who co-wrote the screenplay with director Canet), and François Berléand as an obsessive-compulsive detective who may be Alex’s only hope, Tell No One is an exciting and intelligent suspense film that is sure to satisfy even the most cynical of French film haters (if for the scene of the freeway pileup alone — wow!).

Tell No One makes its U.S. DVD and Blu-ray debut from MPI Media and Music Box Films. The anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen DVD transfer is a joy to behold, and is very clear and crisp. Sound-wise, viewers are given the option of the original French language in a modest 5.1 Dolby Digital track (which makes wonderful use of the front speakers, but reserves the right to refuse service on the rear ones) as well as a 2.0 Dolby Stereo English-dubbed option thrown in since — again — Americans hate reading subtitles (fear not, perfectionists: English subtitles are included for the French track).

The only real letdown with this DVD is the lack of a number of special features that were included with several international releases (e.g. the two-disc U.K. and French releases): several featurettes and interviews have been dropped here, with only the deleted scenes and outtakes remaining. The deleted scenes are quite plentiful, lasting approximately 34 minutes in length, but these snipped bits really do not explore very much of the story (with the exception of really hitting François Berléand’s obsessive-compulsiveness home). The outtakes (5:59) are fun to look at: the first half consists of bloopers with the actors, while the second part is mostly discarded takes of actor Cluzet falling into the water with a camera strapped to him. Apart from a few trailers, that’s all there is on the DVD (Note: the MPI Blu-ray release contains an additional bonus piece — a 55-minute long featurette entitled "Tell No One: The 'B' Side").

Definitely worth your time.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.