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CANNES 2006 Competition / France

Lucas Belvaux’s "brothers"

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Lucas Belvaux’s "brothers"

Social realism was featured on yesterday evening’s evening programme, at the screening of Belgian director Lucas Belvaux’s The Weakest Is Always Right [+see also:
trailer
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, in official competition.

With its run-down factories, old steel and ironworks, cargo train ballets and working-class neighbourhoods teeming with small houses and dilapidated apartment blocks, the director chose the very photogenic Belgian city of Liège to recount the misadventures of three unemployed men (played by the excellent Eric Caravaca, Patrick Descamps and Claude Semal), who decide to hold-up a bank in an effort to free themselves from their social misery.

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The three – a university graduate reduced to menial labour and going through a rough patch with his wife (Natacha Régnier); a handicapped man stuck in a wheelchair; and an easy-going bon vivant – are advised by a former robber just out of prison and on probation ( Belvaux – see interview) to hold up a bank.

However, the dreams of these budding criminals ("to change our lives, we need millions") turn sour, and the film ends with a beautiful scene in which Belvaux’s character throws the stolen money to the crowd present at his arrest because he refuses to turn himself in, forcing the police to shoot him.

A highly ideological film, The Weakest Is Always Right is reminiscent of Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief in that the idea for the robbery comes about from the lack of money to buy a scooter that would make Régnier’s working life easier. Added to this are themes of pride despite the poverty, the dreams of the less well-off (winning the Lotto), friendship of solidarity between “brothers” and being abandoned by society.

The film, a cross between a thriller and a social tragedy, paints a portrait of men without hope as they resort to learning a crime (buying guns, staking out targets and overcoming their fear to commit the crime) that failed, however, to win over a disoriented press.

Produced by French outfit Agat Films and Belgium’s Entre Chien et Loup, The Weakest Is Always Right was co-produced by France 3 Cinéma, RTBF, Les Ateliers de Baere and Araneo Belgique.

The film’s €4.56m budget also included an advance of receipts of €340,000 from the CNC, €370,000 in Eurimages funding and backing from the Communauté Française de Belgique, as well as €250 000 from Wallimage.

French company Films Distribution is handling international sales.

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(Translated from French)

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