Patrice Leconte, Jack of All Directorial Trades

Patrice Leconte's latest film, My Best Friend, has finally had its theatrical release and is currently playing at the Lincoln Plaza and the IFC Center. When it was at Tribeca, I had this to say:

Patrice Leconte strikes me as a sort of Gallic version of Henry Hathaway. He is a dependable director whose filmography is filled with excellent genre pieces, most notably M. Hire, Intimate Strangers and Ridicule. He’s much too skilled a technician and surrounds himself with too many good people to create disasters. And like Hathaway, his work doesn’t bespeak a strong stylistic or thematic identity, but the results are too damned likeable to ignore. The beauty of Leconte is that there just aren’t that many solid craftspersons working in either French or American film any more. I cannot think of a contemporary equivalent of Hathaway in America or Leconte in France.

That said, it must be noted that My Best Friend is one of his slighter works, a pleasant trifle about a cold, calculating antiques dealer (Daniel Auteuil) who is bluntly informed at his birthday party that none of his colleague particularly like him. Even his partner (Julie Gayet), who seems genuinely sympathetic to his bewilderment at this discovery, is not above accepting when he proffers a wager that he can produce his “best friend” within ten days. When he meets a cabbie (Dany Boon) who seems to have a real gift for friendship, he decides to study him in the hope of learning how to make friends. It’s a slender premise, aided immeasurably by Auteuil’s cool demeanor and Boon’s goofiness. The end result is predictable but, appropriately enough, amiable.