Bel Ami – review

The founders of Cheek by Jowl make their film debut with this Maupassant classic, and it is an oddly tepid affair, writes Philip French

In 1947 the former English professor, drama critic and leading MGM producer Albert Lewin wrote and directed a fascinating version of Maupassant's 1885 novel Bel Ami about the upward progress of the charming, untalented journalist Duroy (nicknamed "Bel Ami") in a corrupt late-19th-century Paris where the press are in cahoots with the politicians. George Sanders (who was Lord Henry Wotton in Lewin's The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1945) was marvellously suave (though somewhat too old) in the title role. Robert Pattinson, of current Twilight fame, plays Duroy in the fabulous-looking but oddly tepid movie debut of Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, the joint founders of the Cheek by Jowl theatre company. Pattinson doesn't dominate the movie as one fancies a young Alain Delon would have done 50 years ago under the direction of, say, Roger Vadim. But the women he exploits with increasing confidence – Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci – are excellent, and superbly costumed. Something is missing, and that is Maupassant's acute and detailed social observation.

Contributor

Philip French

The GuardianTramp

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