What Happens When France Creates too Much Greatness in One Year?

The 2011 Parisian film, “The Intouchables,” which touched the hearts of foreign film critics worldwide tells the story of a quadriplegic aristocrat who hires a young thug as a caretaker. The relationship that resulted, although oddball, is one that is capturing notable attention, including that of my own.

Written and directed by both Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, the most important cultural event in France (according to retail chain Fnac), was produced by the Weinstein Company. The masterpiece stars Francois Cluzet as Philippe, the French aristocrat deemed quadriplegic as a result of a paragliding accident, and Omar Sy in his Cesar Award winning turn as the Senegalese criminal, Driss, looking to get his benefits by going on a job interview.

The 2011 Parisian film, “The Artist,” stole the hearts of the entire world telling the black-and-white romantic story of the end of the silent film era. An aged film star and the young ingenue fall in love as they struggle to adapt to the changing 1930’s cinematic landscape.

Written, directed, and edited by Michel Hazanavicius while also being produced by the Weinstein Company. It starred Jean Dujardin as silent film star George Valentin in his 2012 Academy Award winning turn for Best Actor. The film also went on to win four other Academy Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, and six Cesar Awards. “The Artist” won over 100 awards globally, while “The Intouchables” only won 31 awards.

By any means both films are great enough to legendary in their own right. So how did two major French foreign films capture the attention of the millions, but one be sewed into the global cultural lexicon and one not be known of until it’s assigned in a class?

“The Intouchables” set an all-time record for a foreign film not made or previously released in the US, at the high value of $340 million, but “The Artist” became the international gem of that film season. There is one key difference amongst the films: plot.

“The Intouchables,” although veiled behind a true story, is a plot that is seen time and time again: the oddball and straight edge becoming unlikely friends. Look to American mega-successful films such as “The Odd Couple,” “Annie,” “Rush Hour,” “Toy Story,” and “Bad Boys.” Because this is a film narrative that is seemingly old hat to American audiences, its splendor and awe is marred by the rest of it’s class. While “The Artist” deals with common themes like a changing world and adapting to it, it does so in a new and fantastical sense (the silent and black-and-white effects).

There is nothing that separates “The Intouchables” from anything else. The true story does no help as it is not a well-known enough story globally. The discussion over racial identities plays a side role to the film, not pulling the attention it deserves. The same is said of it’s depiction of disability awareness and care. If this were any other year it could have gone against other true stories like “The Iron Lady” or “Argo.” But because the Weinstein Company pushed hard on two similar French films at the same time, one had to fall flat.

I use the term “fall flat” loosely, because it was one of the highest grossing films of its kind, but “The Intouchables” was just not the Academy Award-winning film for us to remember decades to come.

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