Pros: cast; scenery and costumes; an excursion into the history of Paris Cons: a lot of minor characters who are not particularly memorable; moments during the film it becomes boring “Vidocq: The Emperor of Paris” / L’Empereur de Paris
Genre historical drama
Directed by Jean-Francois Richet
Starring: Vincent Cassel (Eugene François Vidocq), Freya Mavor (Annetta), Denis Menochet (Dubillard), August Diehl (Nathanael), Patrick Chenet (Henri), Olga Kurylenko (Roxane Giverny), James Thierre (Duke), etc.
Mandarin Films, Gaumont, France 2 Cinema
Year of release 2018 (in Ukraine 2019)
The picture begins with the events of 1805, when Eugene Francois Vidocq tries to escape from prison again. After some time, he appears in Paris, introducing himself as an ordinary merchant. But a person like Vidocq cannot remain unnoticed for a long time. Suddenly people from criminal circles appear, and Eugene himself is accused of murder. He does not intend to return to custody, so Vidocq asks for pardon, offering the police his cooperation and connections in the underworld.
The story of a former prisoner named Eugene François Vidocq is quite interesting. It is not surprising that writers, including Victor Hugo, were inspired by him. Filmmakers, naturally, also could not ignore Eugene’s personality. True, the previous attempt to make him a heroic character was strange. In 2001, the film “Vidocq” was released, filmed in the detective thriller genre. In it, Gerard Depardieu, who played the role of Vidocq, hunted a killer nicknamed the Alchemist.
The latest film, Vidocq: Emperor of Paris, is a more down-to-earth recreation of real events, which the screenwriters have embellished with artistic twists. This is an excursion into history, when Napoleon took the supreme power over France on his shoulders, and Vidocq, in turn, ruled on the streets of Paris.
This city in the film is shown without romantic embellishments – it is dirty and merciless. Murders happen at every turn, and blood washes the paving stones on which food vendors continue to stand. In contrast to the riots in the streets, there is a beautiful life within the walls of the palaces where statesmen sit.
The director of the film, Jean-François Richet, does not try to use drama to pity the viewer with the difference between the world of the poor and the rich, it is already obvious. Without further ado, Vidocq’s ability to adapt to the society of different social groups is also clear.
He is played in the film by Vincent Cassel, who fully corresponds to the decisive and resourceful image of the main character. On top of that, Vidocq is practically invincible in fights. Fortunately, the fights in the film are not a Hollywood spectacle, so the film retains the framework of a historical adaptation. But Vidocq’s great endurance in Cassel’s acting is still striking.
However, it is unlikely that the role of the adventurous Vidocq would have gone to anyone else. Director Jean-François Richet is working with Vincent Cassel for the third time – before that there were the comedy “That Awkward Moment” and two parts of the film “State Enemy No. 1”, where Cassel also played the role of a famous criminal.
But let’s return to the film “Vidocq: Emperor of Paris,” which also starred popular French actors Denis Menochet (“Inglourious Basterds,” “By the Will of God”) and Denis Lavant (“Beautiful Work,” “Mr. Lonely”). Another leading role is played by an actress of Ukrainian origin with French citizenship, Olga Kurylenko – her character has a noble title, as well as a dubious past. Kurylenko’s heroine does not have much screen time, however, she does not overact and looks harmonious in 19th-century outfits.
There are a dozen more characters in the film, all of them are important to the storyline, but few of them evoke sympathy and empathy. Perhaps this is the result of an attempt to fit important events into a historical film adaptation, where it is more important to show the integrity of the narrative than to focus on the emotions of minor characters. This makes the two-hour film seem a little boring.
But in a film where a lot of events happen and the pace remains monotonous, there is time to appreciate the scenery, as well as the costumes of all the characters. They are made at the highest level.
Vidocq: Emperor of Paris is far from the most exciting film. But it contains many interesting facts from the history of France