2005, France, directed by Jacques Audiard (The Beat That My Heart Skipped)
Director Jacques Audiard has carved out one of the most interesting resumes in recent French film, with his own very particular take on noir themes of violence and redemption, and fine skills as both a wordsmith (hardly surprising given that his father was the great dialoguist Michel Audiard) and a director of actors, especially of younger actors like Mathieu Kassowitz, Emmanuelle Devos and, here, Romain Duris. Though Duris has taken on edgy material before, he’s never been more convincing than in this film; the conflict between his professional violence and the calm he seeks in music is brilliantly conveyed in a performance of control mixed with explosive aggression. The plot is taken from James Toback’s 1978 film Fingers, but the adaptation is so seamless that it feels as though it was conceived in the underbelly of Paris, while the addition of a subplot involving a piano tutor who speaks no French is highly effective. Duris's Thomas should be exceptionally unsympathetic, given his unpleasant work in the employ of his slumlord father, but his desire for a better life, and his dedication to what seems like a foolish dream, not to mention the actor’s energy, render the character complex, confusing and appealing. There’s able support, too, from a rumpled Niels Arestrup, the underused Emmanuelle Devos, and Linh Dan Pham (who reveals her own capacity for anger to startling effect) as the piano tutor.