“With A Friend Like Harry” (Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien) is the story of a man, his family, and an old high school buddy who plays houseguest. Thomas Jefferson said it best: After three days they start to spoil. Harry however is a little different: He spoiled before he arrived.
We meet Michel and his wife Claire at a gas station, their non-air-conditioned car driving their little girls, Jeanne, Sarah, and little Iris crazy. Sweaty and frustrated, Michel washes off in the men’s room, where he meets Harry. After inviting himself over, Harry follows Michel to their vacation home and the premise is set.
In this daring film, absolutely wonderful in dramatic scope and full of lush suspense and slow climaxes, filmmaker Dominik Moll has crafted a great movie. While the concept of the dark, villainous suspense thriller has been done well many times before (“The Vanishing” and Cleopatra’s Second Husband are the first that come to mind), this film differs by its patience. Moll and his editor, Yannick Kergoat, construct a solid piece of work, drawing out the uneasiness in the most mundane scenes, milking the suspense for all it’s worth. The mood of the film is one of pure suspenseful anticipation. We enter the world of Michel and slowly begin to feel that something is…off. Amiss. There is something here, something just under the surface that makes us want to shift in our seats. And this delightful creepiness, the awkward apprehension, the minutes of silence or a simple disapproving look is what takes this film from your average thriller to a classic one. It’s what is not said that is more important than what is.
There is a great undercurrent of emotion from the characters in this movie; something that I assure would be missing in an Americanized version. The lead character, Michel, is played carefully by Laurent Lucas. In what could be called understatement personified, we are slowly drawn into his world, and as we try to pull back we go in further, right along with him. “This is crazy,” he says of his situation at one point. I could do nothing but agree with him. His empathy is genuine, and his sense of being lost is a struggle he deals with continually throughout the film.
But let’s not forget the title character. In a show of superb acting Sergi López plays Harry, the trust-fund baby, to psychotic perfection. We watch helplessly as his obsession grows, and soon begins to overtake him. His girlfriend, the cherub-like Sophie Guillemin plays Plum, her soft curves and pure innocence radiates the contradictory status of her relationship with Harry. They are together for one reason, great sex, but it is their extreme differences in every other aspect of their lives that drives the drama between them. The tension the two carry is beautifully woven in their scenes together.
The film is of course not without fault. The plot does take its sweet time revving up, and just when you think you’ve hit the roller coaster ride, it stops. But that doesn’t detract from the wonderful world it creates, the characters that inhabit that world, or the wonderful mood that is never broken over its 117 minute running time. It’s a delight for any Hitchcock fan, harking back to the days when people didn’t jump-cut edit their way through dramatic scenes or give brief two-sentence summaries of the plot just before the next action spectacle takes place. A great movie, a wonderful script, solid directing and fine acting take this piece to new heights, and I highly recommend it.
VIDEO ^ The film is shown in anamorphic widescreen at 2.35:1. Using every inch of the frame, the cinematographer photographs this film using sharp contrasts, blinding whites and the heaviest blacks, and all hold up in this very nice transfer. With minimal grain, minor compression artifacts and hard-to-find edge enhancement, this is a solid transfer.
AUDIO ^ Two audio tracks available here, French or English both in Dolby Digital 5.1. What sounds like a fuller stereo soundtrack, the surrounds are utilized only a handful of times and the rest of the time to fill out the score.
Also, beware of the English dub. It is HORRIBLE. Laughable acting and voices that are so unlike the original it was almost like watching a different movie. French 5.1 with subtitles is the only way to watch it, trust me.
EXTRAS ^ Four Trailers are included in the “Sneak Peeks” section for “Robert Louis Stevenson’s St. Ives”, “Blow Dry”, “Immortality”, and “B. Monkey”, all unknown British films. Buena Vista didn’t even include the trailer for the movie on the disc! Sheesh. That’s all for the extras section. No, really, that’s it.
What’s missing is a commentary by Dominik, and possibly the editor and cinematographer. All were integral to the making and focus of the project, and I would love to hear what they have to say on the film. Just a few months ago I heard the “Fresh Air” Interview with Moll on National Public Radio and found him a fascinating speaker. A missed opportunity.
Still, a substandard DVD is better than no DVD. With a crisp anamorphic print and clear soundtrack, the DVD accomplishes a nice presentation though it lacks some much-needed extras. Highly recommended.
OVERALL: **** ^ DVD RATINGS ^ Video: *** 1/2 ^ Audio: *** ^ Extras: 1/2