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Lieber Antoine als gar keine Ärger / The Trouble with You

Yvonne is a cop, and the widow of a cop. They’ve just erected a statue of her late husband in the centre of town. It doesn’t look anything like him, but its the thought that counts.

Yvonne used to be in the thick of the action but she’s had a desk job in the 2 years since her husband died. Well, someone has to look after their son. Every night, Yvonne tells him stories based on his father’s heroic actions. We see the stories played for us on the screen. They look like 1970s tv cop shows, if only the cops had had SmartPhones.

But Yvonne learns that her husband was no hero. He was on the take, and directly responsible for the imprisonment of an innocent man, Antoine. You might have thought that Yvonne might have asked how they could live in such a luxurious home, but this is not the sort of film where asking this sort of question helps any.

Antoine is released after 8 years. He’s obviously been brutalised by his time inside. He’s prone to petty theft and mindless violence, and when he gets anxious first his knee and then his whole leg judders. As a result of some judicious stalking, Yvonne gets to know Antoine and reassures him that his moments of violence are not his fault. Too embarrassed to admit her relationship with the man who caused him to be sent down, she allows him to think that she’s a prostitute.

A love quadrilateral develops between Yvonne, Antoine, his partner (played by Audrey Tatou, remember her?) and Louis, another cop and an old friend of Yvonne’s husband. In some cases this is driven more by duty than devotion – particularly Yvonne and Antoine feel a sense of responsibility for where the other one has ended up.

There is a cartoonish quality to it all – most obviously in the tales of derring-do that Yvonne tells her sleepy son, but the plot prefers to follow its own weird logic. For example, there is a running joke of a serial killer who repeatedly visits the police station carrying an increasing number of body parts in carrier bags, only to be brushed off by the cops who were too busy with their own preoccupations.

This had some strange effects in the screening that I saw. Every so often, someone burst out laughing although nothing particularly funny had happened. There are two, equally plausible explanations of this. Either the laughter was a way of dealing with the strangenesses of what was going on in front of us, or I have no sense of humour. I’m equally willing to take either explanation.

I don’t think all of the jokes worked. For example, there seemed to be an assumption that bondage costumes are intrinsically funny of themselves, and all you need to raise a cheap laugh is to set some scenes in a sex dungeon. But even this allowed a little satire – a suspect in the police station was told that he had to remove his gimp mask under the new laws which forbid the wearing of burkas in public places.

For all the limitations, its definitely worth a see, although the run in Berlin is very limited – I literally had to get a bus straight from the airport as its showing in the middle of the day. Its definitely quirky and all the characters are sympathetic – even the homicidal sociopaths.

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