My Best Friend (Mon meilleur ami) (2006)

My Best Friend suggests François is in fact a self-important twit, unable to grasp basic notions of generosity, gentleness, or empathy.

My Best Friend (Mon meilleur ami)

Director: Patrice Leconte
Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Dany Boon, Julie Gayet, Julie Durand
Distributor: Ifc
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: IFC Films
First date: 2006
UK Release Date: 2007-05-11 (General release)
US Release Date: 2007-07-13 (Limited release)

Informed that he has "no friends," fervent antiques dealer François (Daniel Auteuil) is stunned. What can this mean, he wonders, that his business partner, Catherine (Julie Gayet), would be so rude as to accuse him of such social retardation. After all, he protests, before an inadvertent audience of fellow restaurant diners, he has a best friend, and she can meet him -- by the end of the month. Catherine agrees to a bet: if he produces no such person, he must give her a 5th century Roman vase he has just purchased, at no small cost to their business account (200,000 euros, to be exact).

He's not sure why he bought the vase (decorated with a scene of Achilles and Patroclus) or why it's suddenly important to him: on hearing that it once held the tears of a man who lost his best friend, François is compelled to outbid wealthy television producer Étienne Delamotte (Henri Garcin) for it. When he makes the bet with Catherine at the start of Patrice Leconte's Mon meilleur ami (My Best Friend), François reasons that someone he's met will count as a friend. Hunched over the dining room table at his apartment, François all but ignores his girlfriend as he makes a list of fellow dealers and childhood acquaintances, none of whom, he soon finds, wants anything to do with him. (The girlfriend, by the way, goes home that night, promising to wait for his eventual coming to his sense, her part reduced to sad eyes and unbelievable patience.)

The film suggests Catherine is right: François is a self-important twit, unable to grasp basic notions of generosity, gentleness, or empathy. He doesn't remember the girlfriend she's introduced to him (or even the fact that she's lesbian), he's alienated his daughter Louise (Julie Durand), who's on her way to study for a year in Cambodia; and he's annoyed his colleagues (one fellow corrects his assertion that "Good reckoning s make good friends," with "Good reckonings make good reckonings"). He's also worried, having recently attended a client's funeral, where he found himself in a church with just six other mourners, including the dead man's mother. What if his funeral is similarly forlorn? What if he does, as Catherine observes, only "like things," not people?

Advised by a grade school companion that he was "a smug little shit then," François concludes he can learn how to manage this friendship thing. His efforts to educate himself prove embarrassing: at a bookstore, the clerk yells out the title he seeks, How to Make Friends, as other shoppers glance over with pity in their eyes. Determined to beat this thing, François lights on a cab driver, Bruno (Dany Boon), whom he's seen interacting affably and apparently easily with others -- including Louise, whom François perceives as impossibly grumpy and age-appropriately insubordinate. Desperate, François asks Bruno to teach him how to make friends.

It's a daunting task, perhaps especially for Bruno, who, for all his affability, is also lonely. Recently separated from his wife, he still imagines a reconciliation, lives a block from his parents, and spends most of his time alone (while you see other cabbies gathered together, laughing and joking). While it's obvious that François and Bruno are fated to be friends, their route is circuitous, part sitcom, part melodrama. François' anxious resolve (he becomes fixed on the "three S's," learning to appear sociable, smiling, and sincere) makes him an unlikely friend to anyone, but Bruno's conviviality is soon revealed to be a performance as well. He works so hard to be liked by so many, he confesses, that he is also without a "best friend." Awww.

The cue that they are indeed made for each other, despite their plain class difference and opposite affects, is François and Bruno's shared passion for trivia: François loves being right, and Bruno, an Alex Trebek fan, aspires to be a game show whiz, though he's also subject to severe nervousness, to the point that his repeated auditions for the TV show, Réponses à tout (Know It All), leave him stammering and perspiring, unable to provide answers he knows as soon as he walks out the door. (This plot point leads to an eventual appearance on the French Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?, with requisite theatrics, big music, and frequent cuts to over-invested TV viewers.)

As they fumble their way toward their own friendship, Bruno and François display a closeness that's both warm and unusual, without resorting to the sort of crass homophobic jokes that characterize such manly intimacies in US movies. On one level, their naïveté regarding social niceties allows exchanges and nuances that would be much harder for veteran masculine posturers. Not unlike the ingenuousness of the much younger protagonists in the upcoming US gross-out comedy Superbad, they're so focused on immediate, tangible, ostensibly comedic goals (here, winning the bet and performing on the game show), that they knock past expectations of male bonding, finding other, clumsier but also less obnoxious ways to connect.

It helps, of course, that Auteuil's performance is so subtle, selfless, and, despite the role, substantive. François' mix of canny self-interest and utter artlessness is frequently contrived and tiresome (Bruno wonders, “You pay to make people happy?”, and François, apparently this oblivious, asks back, “Don’t you?”), but Auteuil is still beguiling.


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.