PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


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.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.