A few years ago, my wife and I were browsing titles in a DVD-comic book shop (yes, some still exist, this particular one being on the ground floor of the building we lived in at the time).
Because I tend to consume most media via non-traditional means (shakes fist at archaic international distribution methods and stodgy rights holders), I had already seen -- months, and in some cases years, prior -- most of the titles available. But I noticed The Intouchables, a French film that was on my cinephile periphery because it had a high score on IMDB and I'd read a few ephemeral Internet comments praising the film.
We decided to rent the movie, but unfortunately the only subtitles were in Korean. My wife can get by with English subtitles for an entire film, but I alas cannot (although I managed the Korean subtitles for the French and German of Inglourious Basterds when we saw it in the theater, so sticker?).
Around a year or so later, the movie was available for streaming on Cartoon HD, an app that sneaked its way into the App Store for like twelve minutes and which I was fortunate enough to download within that time window. But when I tried to watch it, it was only in French with no English subtitles. Sacre bleu.
Early last month, I learned that Netflix had opened service in Korea. I signed up. Their library so far is embarrassingly bare (and, frustratingly, their Korean content doesn't include English subtitles), but I was able to download a beta-stage VPN that allows access to Netflix worldwide. The Internet always finds a way.
This afternoon, the Independence Movement Day holiday here, I found The Intouchables available on Netflix Canada via the aforementioned beta-stage VPN.
And I watched it.
And I loved it.
The premise sounds cliched and cloying. A rich, white quadriplegic hires a black ex-convict as his caregiver. They bond and do stuff, each person learning from the other. If someone described the movie that exact way, I'd take a pass. And if I'd read Roger Ebert's review prior to watching it, I'd similarly be turned off:
A stuffy rich employer finds his life enriched by a wise black man from the Paris ghettos
Ebert was wrong there. Philippe isn't "stuffy" at all (there's no conflict between the two; they become friends almost instantly), and neither is Driss "wise." The film does have cliches, and it certainly qualifies for entrance into the ongoing regrettable list of Magical Negroes in cinema* for having Driss shake up the lives of the people in Philippe's manse, however twee the results are.
But it also contains one of the greatest friendships -- if not the greatest -- I've ever seen in movies. Phillipe and Driss are great friends. Those are two dudes I want to hang out with. Unless I missed something, race is never mentioned in the film, so the rich -white-poor-black dichotomy is carried over from the viewer rather than anything shown explicitly in the film.
The film is also rated R. I'd say that's a shame, because it's a movie young people would enjoy, but I'm not that dumb to know that young people will seek out and enjoy anything they want.
The Intouchables is a great movie.
(and François Cluzet totes looks like Dustin Hoffman, right?)
* Red in The Shawshank Redemption is, confusingly, on Wikipedia's list, to which I demand an explanation. And no, his reputation as a "man who can get things" doesn't make him a Magical Negro. He got Andy a rock hammer, not fucking Mjolnir!