Der unverhoffte Charme des Geldes / The Fall of the American Empire

Pierre-Paul has a doctorate in Philosophy and would like to teach, but he can earn more money as a courier. We first meet him being a bit of a dick with his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend, explaining why there’s no place for true intellectuals in modern society. We can’t trust our Philosophers – Heidegger was a Nazi and Sartre a Stalinist – and as for the politicians…

Trying to change the subject to, well anything but Pierre-Paul, she asks him why, after 18 months of going out together, he hasn’t told her he loves her. He launches into another self-obsessed philosophical rant and she ups and leaves, telling him that he’s going to die lonely and alone (strangely, the second time I’ve heard that phrase in a film this week). You’ve got to admit, she’s got a point.

Now if Pierre-Paul were just a self-pitying jerk, we’d be in for a long 2+ hours, but fortunately he’s got more than a little of the Louis Theroux about him, and when you can stop him banging on, he’s really quite sweet. He’s the sort of person who doesn’t just give money to beggars, but knows the local Big Issue seller by name. So, despite all his moaning that people like him are pre-destined to uninteresting lives, we’re up for the ride when fate dumps some excitement on his doorstep.

Pierre-Paul is on his normal delivery rounds, when one of his normal shops is robbed. The robbers are interrupted and everyone kills everyone else, leaving Pierre-Paul a few minutes to stash two very large sacks of banknotes before the cops arrive.

He spends some of the money procuring what used to be called a high-class call girl. She’s called Camille, but her dating site name is Asapie, female philosopher who influenced Socrates innit. In short, she’s the sort of female character who is sexy, rich, intelligent and completely out of the main guy’s league (though of course we know she’ll fall for him eventually). Before we had manic pixie dream girls, we had to make up our own female stereotypes.

Pierre-Paul and Camille assemble a motley crew of cohorts – most notably a dodgy biker who has been recently released from jail, where he learned finance law and a financier who was one of Asapie’s early clients. They have to find a way of getting rid of the money before the police and various gangsters catch up with them. It shouldn’t really work – and indeed once it sets up the premise it does get lost a little – but somehow we stay with them till the end.

One of the things it has going for it is the very self-righteousness that makes Pierre-Paul such of a pain to start with. There is no time for bourgeois morality – founding a bank is clearly seen as being more suspect morally than robbing one, and the police are most definitely The Enemy. Its all carried off with enough panache to help us overlook that the Robin Hoods who are beating capitalism at its own game are of dubious morality themselves, however often they put in the odd shift at the homeless shelter.

I guess the politics of the film are that socialism would be great if it weren’t for people. It is simultaneously life-affirming and deeply cynical. Yet it has enough charm to carry it off and for us to indulge its weaknesses. Not the film of the year, but a decent enough night out all the same.

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