Dave's Rating:

4.5

… a blast.

Who's in It: Malik Zidi, Thibault Vinçon, Alexandre Steiger, Thomas Blanchard, Natacha Régnier, Jacques Bonnaffé

The Basics: Three young French-lit students form a weird bond, with one of them assuming an emotionally and intellectually dictatorial leadership position. He influences their tastes, gives withering comebacks to their inferior opinions, makes them burn love letters they've written, even undermines their confidence in how to dress. It turns out, of course, that he's also crazy, doing his best to ruin his comrades' dreams and hopes and college theses and whatever else he can get his freak-hands on.

What's the Deal? It doesn't matter, really, if you aren't superliterary or care about the small, intense world of academia. This could be set anywhere and still be a blast. It's creepy and mean and tense, full of paranoia and unhappiness. Even better, it's about the kind of guy that everyone knows, the kind of friend you have when you're making that transition from teenager to adult that you sort of idolize and hope to be like, someone you secretly think is maybe a jerk but that you still put on a pedestal. Only in this case, that person turns out to be the Devil.

But If You Are Superliterary: You'll enjoy the hermetically sealed setting, the way that the characters place serious emphasis on ideas, criticism and more ideas, even to the point of getting into a near brawl over one character's use of the expression meta-narrative.

Brainiac Cred: Director Emmanuel Bourdieu is a former philosophy professor and the son of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. So he's got the inside line on this world, takes it appropriately seriously and, at the same time, shows you how soapy and petty and vulgar it can be.

Francophile Actor Breakdown: When you're reading subtitles as much as looking at the image, it can be tough to place people from film to film. But in case you're wondering where you've seen some of these people before in other French films that made it to the States, Zidi was in François Ozon's Water Drops on Burning Rocks and Régnier was in The Dream Life of Angels. Bonnaffé was in Jacques Rivette's Va Savoir.

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