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Awesome: 5.88%
Worth A Look76.47%
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Pretty Bad: 17.65%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 10 user ratings

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With a Friend Like Harry
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by Jason Whyte

"But he screams so well!!!"
4 stars

I don't think I've ever seen a man scream so convincingly on film as Sergi Lopez in Dominic Moll's "With A Friend Like Harry". Lopez, looking like a younger Henry Czerny, reminds me of the many "He's Not Who You Think He Is!" characters in many Hitchcock films, and when he screams, while driving in a car after an important scene, it's so fascinating, so odd and so perplexing I couldn't help but be amazed.

Above all, however, he's created the perfect nod to Hitchcock. "With A Friend Like Harry" is less about surprising the audience with the fact that this man, Harry, is insane and full of murderous intent (they tell us about this early on), but how Harry handles himself around the people he is trying to befriend.

This family is led by Michel (Laurent Lucas) and Claire (Mathilde Seinger), who are on a trip to their summer cottage. At a pit stop, Michel runs into Harry in the restroom and informs Michel of their friendship in high school. They part, but then meet up later in the parking lot with Harry's girlfriend Plum (Sophie Guillerman) and follow Michel's family to the cottage.

So far so good. Harry and Plum fit in well with Michel and Claire and the kids. However, something deep is lurking under Harry's surface. His friendliness turns to obsession and wild gifts. "I heard your car was falling apart, so I bought you a new one" Harry says, brandishing a new SUV.

Harry's plight to care for Michel, Claire and the kids goes further and further into obsession, but in an interesting way, Moll shows the world of Harry in full view and shows Michel's family, thinking nothing is wrong. There's plenty of long, unbroken takes of Harry, sometimes with Plum and sometimes alone, where the cuts and close ups mean a lot. In one of my favorite shots in the film, Harry calls Michel from a hotel, and Plum, his doll of a girlfriend, lays naked on the bed facing down. Not only is it a tastefully erotic shot of a beautiful woman, but looking at Harry in this shot, who is barely paying any attention to her, we wonder if he really likes this girl or not.

There are even more visual techniques that are dazzling. The way this summer cottage is built, with one room fully restored into a pink bathroom against a batty old building (the bathroom was a present from Michel's parents) is very interesting, and watch for the little things like an old well. They may come into play later.

Moll's direction is fascinating, the way he stretches the Cinemascope frame with wide vistas, but alarming juxtaposes of light to dark, loud to quiet. For the picture, the aforementioned "scream" sequence, very dark, is suddenly hit with a cut to a bright bathroom. As for the sound an early scene where Michel's daughter repeatedly screams for a lollipop in their rundown car, then jump cuts to a scene where the girl is relaxing in Harry's car.

The players in the film are all excellent. I have nothing but admiration for Sergi Lopez as Harry, who is believeable in this kind of film. He keeps us guessing. Laurent Lucas plays Michel as kind of sedate and uninteresting, but that's the kind of person he is. Mathilde Seinger as Michel's angered wife is fine, as is Sophie Guillerman who has a very classy look to her. Both of these women are very lovely in their own right.

Watching "With A Friend Like Harry," I was slightly reminded of the disastarous Robert Zemeckis' 2000 film "What Lies Beneath", which was his take on Hitchcockian terror with none present. I reacted to this film with surprise and delight. It's endlessly enjoyable and entertaining, but it also plays on instinctive fears and shows Harry as a terrible presence, but the one part of us is interested to see how he works next. The fact he screams so well on film is icing on the cake.

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originally posted: 09/14/04 16:01:39
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User Comments

9/14/04 Jack Sommersby Ending isn't quite up to snuff, but a deft, suspenseful film it is. 4 stars
1/16/02 The Bomb 69 those wacky French are... 4 stars
7/20/01 skye liked it. unpredictable. 4 stars
7/05/01 Suzz Good psychological thriller but not up to the level of excitement/interest of Memento 4 stars
6/23/01 Ben A very very very good movie. Leaves American cinema miles behind. 5 stars
6/18/01 Larry Beahan Repressed teacher visited by a muse, his murderous other self, writes darkly 4 stars
6/17/01 Kristopher A very pleasant surprise.It's nice to see a thriller with almost no violence or vulgarity. 4 stars
6/15/01 malcolm disturbing. almost too slow build-up. nearly thrill-free. but it works. 4 stars
5/19/01 Heather Strong Hitchcock/Diabolique influence, a dark thriller worth seeking out 5 stars
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  20-Apr-2001 (R)


  01-Feb-2001 (M)

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