That Day (2003, Raoul Ruiz)

An impeccably shot but disturbingly off-kilter comedy-thriller, a very successful genre mash-up with the perfect amount of Ruizian surrealism (not way too much, as in The Golden Boat).

Michel Piccoli, apparently wearing some eyeliner:

In short, a father (Michel Piccoli) is scheming to have his daughter from an earlier marriage (slightly mental, confined to home, played by Ruiz regular Elsa Zylberstein) killed by allowing a murderous psychopath (Bernard Giraudeau) to be released from the asylum and led to his house – but the psychopath and the daughter fall for each other, and he ends up killing almost everyone in the movie but her. Meanwhile a couple of cops, using some kind of ridiculous logic, decide to stay away from the likely crime scene until later in the evening, at which point the father kills himself and the cops arrest the head of the asylum (Féodor Atkine of The Silence Before Bach and Sarraounia).

Below, a portrait of soon-to-be-murdered family members. From L-R:
not sure, Roland (Laurent Malet of Chabrol’s Blood Relatives and Demy’s Parking), Leone (Edith Scob, between Comedy of Innocence and Summer Hours), Luc (Jean-Baptiste Puech), Hubus (Jeunet regular Rufus, Amelie’s dad), Bernadette (Hélène Surgère of Intimate Strangers, who died last month)

The actors, especially our two leads, are amazing. Ruiz gets in some nice long takes, deep-focus shots (not as absurd as the ones in City of Pirates), some anamorphic-lens twisting (a la Comedy of Innocence), some black comic dialogue (twice when people Pointpoirot was about to kill die on their own, he responds “that wasn’t me”), ridiculous story developments (all this murder is over the inheritance of a condiment fortune) and melodramatic elements (I think the valiant, surviving house servant Treffle is the brother of asylum head Warf).

Treffle with Warf’s mustache:

Pointpoirot’s blood-sugar meter during one of my favorite scenes, a one-take cartoon shootout vs. Roland:

Livia is excited at the start of the movie because all astrological signs point to this being the biggest day in her life. In the park she chats with a guy from the easily-escapable local asylum, taking a break from a bike ride with his companions, and someone shouts at Treffle in recognition – I think that’s the setup for his being related to Warf. Piccoli’s ex-wife got the “Salsox fortune,” which the daughter will inherit, so Livia was supposed to die along with brother Luc (she actually kills Luc) – not other brother Roland (shot) or Hubus (heart attack) or Bernadette (stabbed) or Leone (hit by car).


Bernard Giraudeau as Pointpoirot. This was one of his last movies, as he died of cancer last year.

Elsa Zylberstein was also in the movie This Night, which is not a sequel to That Day.

“Switzerland, in the near future,” a once-neutral nation through which tanks are now rolling, evoking images of the military takeover of Ruiz’s native Chile in 1973, precipitating his flight to Europe.

Police chief, with a bit of food in the foreground:


There are more than enough laugh-out-loud moments — Livia and Pointpoirot’s slow dance is scored to the chimes of the dead relatives’ discarded cell phones, while Edith Scob … exults the nuances of bottled sauce — but Ruiz’s best gags are formalist: A cut from the misty outdoors to a dining room has one of the characters polishing the camera’s eye, and the extended chase between Pointpoirot and Livia’s gun-toting brother is staged as a repeatedly advancing-receding tracking shot in a posh hallway. That Day is a Chabrolian parody, just as Colloque de Chiens is a goof on Fassbinder and Shattered Image is an erotic thriller send-up…

Piccoli and Scob:

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