In a film scene as brown with sequels as a month-old banana, why make another trilogy? Yet not only has Lucas Belvaux made one, he actually seems to have had a good reason to. The young Frenchman's three interlocking new films are smart entertainment with something to say not only about people but also about the art of film itself.
For now, you'll have to take my word for it: Even though the stories told in the three films happen simultaneously, Belvaux's unusual Trilogy is being released one installment at a time, each a crafty riff on a different film genre.
The first to be released here (though it was the second in its home country) is On the Run, a taut thriller in the great tradition of intelligent French underworld flicks, the kind where every desk drawer and gym bag holds either a handgun or a fake passport. Belvaux himself plays Bruno Le Roux, a former student revolutionary who after 15 years in stir breaks out and returns to Grenoble, where he plans to resume a campaign of anti-establishment terrorism at the vanguard of a presumed popular uprising. He also wants revenge against a crime lord named Jacquillat.
The jailbreak introduces Belvaux's flashy side: He's got a great eye, and a knack for scintillating cuts that drive the action with no nonsense and lots of intensity. But Belvaux, who also scripted, quickly demonstrates his head for drama, as Bruno tracks down Jeanne (Catherine Frot), a former comrade in the struggle who's now a bourgeois wife, mom and schoolteacher. Bruno -- who in the course of On the Run blows up a public building with plastic explosives -- might be dodging the cops, but the central drama is his often-unspoken dialogue with Jeanne, who's moved on from their revolutionary youth and harbors no illusions about the "popular army" he imagines still has his back.
One thing more: Bruno's journey along the fringes of Grenoble runs him into AgnÃ¨s (Dominique Blanc), a morphine addict whom he rather selflessly helps out, and who in turn hides him in a borrowed chalet overlooking town. The chalet, in turn, belongs to Cécile and Alain, the marrieds at the center of Un Couple Epatant, the comedy that will be the trilogy's second installment here. And AgnÃ¨s is married to Pascal, the cop who's after Bruno and who's the protagonist of part three, the sober drama Apres la Vie.
Seeing all three films, and spotting where the narratives and characters overlap, is involving and amusing; watching the genres bounce off one another provides intriguing insights into how films are made. But like its counterparts, On the Run can stand alone, even as a comment on an antihero who doesn't have a leg left to stand on. In French, with subtitles.