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An interesting and restrained thriller
on 21 December 2006
Although Betty (Isabelle Huppert, who was 43-years-old when the film was released) calls Victor (Michel Serrault, who was 69) "Papa" on occasion in this smooth and restrained thriller from Claude Chabrol, he is not her father by any means. The term is merely one of ironic affection. What they are are modern "gypsies" living on the fringes of society plying their ancient trade. Perhaps they were lovers in the past. Clearly they are a team, dependent upon one another. In particular what these small time con artists do is go to conventions, medical, dental, farm equipment salesman conventions, find a target and con the poor dupe out of some of his money.
Some. The film begins at a roulette table on the French Riviera with Betty stringing along a not entirely bright lawnmower salesman whom she invites for a drink. She slips some knockout drops into his drink and quickly invites him up to his room where, after he is out cold, Victor follows. They take some of his money. Victor insists on always playing it safe and using a rather strange but plausible psychology (which will figure later in the movie) of making the man think that perhaps he wasn't robbed, since if she had intended to rob him, would she have only taken part of the money out of his wallet? They do forge his signature on a check, but he will only find out about that later, and indeed might not be sure about how that happened.
So this is a small time con. Trouble begins for our vagabond thieves when Betty meets the CFO of a big corporation who is transferring five million Swiss francs in cash out of the country. She senses the chance for a big score, and after the mark falls in love with her (she thinks) she brings Victor into the scheme. With some tricky exchanges of the metal suitcase containing the money Betty and Victor end up over their heads in some very hot water.
The plot is a little on the unlikely side, as thriller plots tend to be, but the thing to keep in mind is the idea of taking only PART of the money. This is what fools the bad bad guys (as opposed to the good bad guys who are our vagabond duo, Betty and Victor).
Any movie starring the incomparable Isabelle Huppert (La Pianiste 2001; Merci pour le chocolat 2000; La dentelliere 1977, and many more ) is worth seeing and any movie directed by Claude Chabrol (Une affair de femmes 1988; Betty 1992; La ceremonie 1995, etc.) will have something of interest in it. Add a fine performance by Serrault, one of the great veterans of the French cinema, and "Rien ne va plus" is definitely worth seeing. However the role played by Huppert does not challenge her and Chabrol's more famous films (some of them also starring Huppert) are decidedly more interesting.
But see this for the lighthearted chemistry between Huppert who is sublimely fetching and Serrault who is clearly past the age of any pretension. Such a quasi-Platonic union based on the love that still warms the embers in a dying fire has become almost a staple of directors past their prime. See Claude Sautet's Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud (1995) which also featured Serrault for another example.