Be Careful Who You Wish For: 'The Associate'

As a satire from the era of Being There on the consensus delusions that run the stock market and speculative capitalism, the story is solid and intriguing and could easily be remade today--and it was, as IMDB reveals.

The Associate

Director: Rene Gainville
Cast: Michel Serrault
Distributor: Pathfinder
Rated: Not rated
Year: 1979
Release date: 2011-03-22

Julien Pardot (Michel Serrault), a midlife failure as the family breadwinner, opens an investment firm and nobody beats a path to his door. He notices that other people refer to having to consult their associates, so he invents a mysterious British associate, Mr. Davis, and puts his own advice through his partner's non-existent mouth.

His business takes off with a vengeance and soon he's got a big house and, in a touch that wouldn't be in any American remake, a guilt-free mistress on the side. Before long, the clamoring world gives Mr. Davis credit for everything and Pardot feels Davis taking over unless he can get rid of him. In a logical escalation, anything that happens to Mr. Davis may trigger a financial crisis and economic collapse, not to mention personal calamity for Pardot.

In this era of Millennial Unreality in cinema, every other movie is about people who don't exist or don't know who they are or live in their imagination, so older movies that play with the same ideas seem prescient. The script by director Rene Gainville and the estimable Jean-Claude Carrière (colleague of Luis Buñuel), based on Jenaro Prieto's novel, moves at a clip, touching lightly on its ideas of imaginary men rather than, as it were, fleshing them out. The jaunty music and the moments of cartoony sound-effects and slapstick aren't as amusing as they want to be and clash with the subtler wit of the general theme.

As a satire from the era of Being There on the consensus delusions that run the stock market and speculative capitalism, the story is solid and intriguing and could easily be remade today--and it was, with Whoopie Goldberg, as IMDB reveals. It has recently been a 2004 Chilean TV version, though perhaps more people are familiar with an actual Hollywood remake back in 1996 as a Whoopi Goldberg vehicle, also called The Associate. That's the one where she spends the last half of the movie masquerading as a fat white guy. No mistress there. Notice the contemporary hook of making race and gender an issue in the motivation.

Obviously such Wall Street satire isn't new; there's a funny episode of Car 54, Where Are You about the same kind of panic based on perception, and it's even in Mary Poppins for goodness sake. But hold onto your chapeaus, because this one is even older than you think.

Prieto's novel, written in 1928 and considered a classic of Chilean literature, has been filmed many times. It may be hard to believe that a book written before the 1929 crash was a parody of confidence in financial markets, but there had been crashes before. However, that element may have been emphasized by the French, since the point of a good story is that it adapts to many contexts. There doesn't seem to be an English translation, but apparently the story is a somewhat fantastical essay in the double or doppelganger theme, with the twist that the hero has fabricated his own double.

As for the book's cinematic doubles, first came the The Mysterious Mr. Davis in 1936. This is a British film, although it was made by two giants of French cinema, producer-director Claude Autant-Lara and writer Jacques Prévert. Apparently this one-hour effort was what they called a "quota quickie", the equivalent of Hollywood B-films.

More incredibly, the tale was filmed in 1939 Italy, under the reign of Mussolini, as Roberto Roberti's Il Socio Invisibile. One wonders how much satire that one got away with. It was deemed ripe for Franco's Spain as well, as witness a 1946 Consultaré a Mister Brown from Pio Ballesteros. The same year produced a Mexican version, Roberto Gavaldon's Il Socio, with Tito Davison's screenplay being nominated for Mexico's Ariel (their Oscar equivalent), and Beatriz Ramos winning Best New Actress. Then came a 1968 telenovela in Chile, so perhaps their 2004 version is a remake of this.

You watch a French throwaway, but instead you find a key to the secret history of the 20th Century. As these cycles carry on, it's almost distressing how the gentle mockery of 30 years ago, and 50 years ago, and 75 years ago (!) can still seem valid.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.