Coup de Chance, “Stroke of Luck” or “Lucky Strike” is Woody Allen’s 50 th film, entirely in French, shot with French actors in Paris and in the forest of Montmorency. Lou de Laâge, 33, replaces Léa Seydoux who played in “Midnight in Paris”. It is like in “Match Point”, the story of a lucky encounter which turns out to become dramatic. Two characters in the film are particularly brilliant, Alain played by Melvil Poupaud, the dark and mysterious husband of the ravishing Fanny and Valérie Lemercier, who plays her mother and is the clever lady in the story. The action set on avenue Montaigne and in posh Parisian apartments and a country house, is centered around the young woman who works for Artcurial, the auction house, and her charming but a little bland lover, Alain, who was at the Lycée Français in New York with her years ago.
Lou de Laâge is ravishing at times and less so when she goes out with her husband as his “trophy wife”. One of the best lines in the script is as Fanny speaks: “Chloé asked me yet again exactly what you do. I told her I’m married to you and I can’t figure out”… Jean answers: “I make money for people. …Wealthy men come to me whose desire it is to become more wealthy… I help them and from them I earn my daily bread”. When I heard this line, I immediately thought of Jeffrey Epstein.
There are lots of picnics at the Palais Royal, in the Champs Elysées gardens and at Alain’s, her boyfriend’s garçonnière (attic flat), which is totally charming. They discuss jazz clubs and the role of chance and coincidences in life. “Such is life. Despite our plans, it’s out of our hands more than we like to admit.” Fanny was previously married to a musician who turned out to be a drug addict and she met her rich and reassuring husband at the time of her divorce. She always wanted to be an artists and her actual life does not correspond to her dreams thus a permanent frustration.
I felt a little uncomfortable with the geography of it all. Alain’s flat is meant to be just behind avenue Montaigne and you clearly recognize the street door as being rue de Tournon in the Latin quarter. The same is true of the hunting scenes. A fun outdoor dinner in the sun concludes a day of deer hunting in the country. Woody has obviously never been to a deer hunt and does not know that they only start at the end of October when it is too dark and too cold to have dinner outside. But who cares, the magic of love is present and his passion for French life comes out very genuine. He directed the actors in English and understood what they said in French obviously.
Melvil Poupaud and Valérie Lemercier get on famously well and his crazy mania of playing with a large electric train is just one of his psychological problems. He is obsessively jealous of his wife and checks on her on the phone, many times a day, especially at lunch time. When he uses teh services of a detective, the film turns around.
The camera work by Vittorio Storaro is impeccable and the jazzy music slightly more modern than usual in Woody Allen’s films. It was a new experience for the director to shoot in French, a language he understands and he let the actors use their own words when they wanted, because the script was a translation from the English. Besides a few “anglicisms”, like Femme Trophée for Trophy wife, it works.
Little by little we discover that Jean has a sleazy past and is probably not as attractive as he looks. Fanny resists his passion for giving her jewelry and tries to remain a natural young woman. But she is constantly ill at ease, whether with his older friends or with her lover, who makes her feel guilty.
The 1 hour 36 mns goes by too fast and one feels very sad at the end to have to leave these fascinating characters. This 50 th movie by Woody Allen (but hopefully not the last) is a new surprise, emotionally and artistically. And the cherry on the cake is that romanticism has invaded the set: Lou de Laâge and Melvil Poupaud fell in love during the shooting and are now a couple in real life… This had happened b before on Woody Allen’s set when Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz had fallen in love and married in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. No wonder European actors love to shoot with him…
“Coup de chance” comes out on Wednesday 27 September.
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