Jun 25, 2019 in Exploratory

Domestic And International Commercial Success Of Intouchables


Modern cinematography is partially an art and partially a business. Sometimes, this balance shifts in favor of one or another goal. However, there are cases when both of them blend, receiving a huge commercial success and appraisal of viewers and film critics. This happened to the French motion picture released in 2011 called Intouchables (Toledano 2011). Despite the commercial success, it received several prestigious movie awards; however, it was never nominated for Oscar. This paper analyzes the reasons of the success of the film and its probability to be reshot in Hollywood. The combination of the plot based on the real story, perfect cast and marvelous play of the actors explain its success. At the same time, it has all the features Hollywood values, which is explained in the following analysis.



The Overall Characteristic

Before characterizing the peculiarities of the setting, the actor’s play and the other features, it is important to introduce the filmmaking story. Thus, the French studio Gaumont International Television made the movie. This studio is famous for comedies and action movies. Apparently, it distributed more than 550 films and produced more than 450 films (Gaumont [fr] n. d.). Moreover, the executive team of this company consists of highly qualified international specialists (Gaumont International Television Executive Team n. d.), which proves the fact that this studio is not an art house but a mainstream motion picture production company. One of its main features of the Intouchables is the blend of a comedy and tragedy, which is based on a real story about a disabled person and his assistant. Moreover, the critics call this movie “a new permutation of the buddy film” (Weiss & Gurmu 2013). Indeed, the basic  interaction of the characters fits the format of a buddy movie, which is a movie about the ups and downs of friendship. Howeveor, this film adds modern accents to the classic film story, which is a racial and financial difference. Both of them are completely new to the format of the buddy movie because the story is happening in the period characterized by the problems of racial segregation in the American society. Thus, the racial aspect unites Intouchables with the cultural setting of the movies in the US. Additionally, it discusses the moral aspects of the relation of the society towards disabled people, and the difficulties in life that these people face. For instance, the vivid example is the interview for a job, when the applicants express their feeling about the disabled. In this way the movie shows that the society is biased and prejudiced towards this category of people. Moreover, the interviewees were expressing the classic clichés that disabled require constant care and treatment. However, in reality they require adequate attitude because they are the same people as others. In this sense, the cynical attitude of the main hero Driss expressed in such phrases as “you may sit where you are” captures the attention of the viewer. Moreover, this attention and feeling cautious grows into sympathy to a person that lives a full life, although a dangerous one. The tagline of the movie says “Sometimes you have to reach into someone else's world to find out what's missing in your own” (Taglines n. d.). In this sense, the blend of the two characters creates that sincere friendship, which is a main feature of any buddy movie. Furthermore, one should discuss the characters of the movie.

The Characteristic of the Protagonists

The main characters of the story are Philippe and Driss. Philippe is a rich white man from an aristocratic family of about 45 years old. Despite his prosperity, he suffers from a disability and, thus, he requires an assistant to help him perform daily tasks. His aristocratic and educated manners are well combined with the disability, although this is a dramatic combination. He has a palace, fast cars and other pleasures but his main trait is reasonability, which restricts him from these joys. Additionally, his disability makes him shy in front of women, which is why he is alone. The process of the interview in the movie shows that he is not satisfied with his way of life, and, therefore, becomes depressed. That is why the appearance of a chaotic and irrational Driss seems unusual and rude for this setting. However, this particular contrast gives Philippe the idea that this black man with unclear history can assist him better than any other educated and well-mannered candidate can.

Furthermore, Driss is an unemployed male immigrant from Senegal of around 30 years old, who is completely satisfied with his problematic life. He occasionally smokes marijuana, flirts with women, has unclear criminal history and is not well mannered. At the same time, he is honest and expects the understanding from the employer by immediately signing the employee refusal papers. Thus, from the first glance, it is evident for a viewer that these two people met only for a few seconds and their destinies are in different worlds. However, this psychological contrast establishes the beginning for the development of the friendly relationship. Driss is irritated in the restrictions that Philippe imposed on himself, which causes him to motivate his employer to act. However, this motivation is rude because Driss knows only the language of force. Surprisingly, this is the attitude that suits Philippe. The reason for this is that Driss is the only person that views Philippe as the equal one. He pays attention towards his disability but his knowledge of this is extremely little, which different evidences support. For instance, while serving a tea, Driss decides to wake Philippe up by spilling the hot water on his leg. As a result, he becomes astonished that the leg is completely senseless. Gradually, Driss becomes aware of all Philippe’s troubles, which causes him to become empathetic. The climax of the story happens when both men, occasionally separated by the circumstances, feel that their relationship is not a simple work relationship between employer and employee. Both of them realize that they have become tied with friendship and they miss this connection when parted. This tragic relationship is filled with comic moments of a childish joy of the disabled person when being in a fast driven car or paragliding. Additionally, a particular positive experience for the viewer is the revealed relationship of Philippe with some woman named Eleonore. Due to his disability, Philippe sees this relationship without any future, which upsets him. At the same time, Driss inspires him with his own example and assists in every possible way to arrange their date. Likewise, he helps Philippe to resolve his problematic relationship with his adopted daughter. Despite Phillipe decided to adopt a girl in order to experience the feeling of being a father, she became one more problem because of her misconduct and drug usage.

Moreover, the relationship of the main characters is the interaction of the two different psychological types. Philippe is passive and depressed whereas Driss is active and initiator. This contrasting combination results in them adding to the character their friend. Thus, while Philippe experiences his lost feelings of extreme actions, Driss is acquainted with classical music and painting. This share of the lacking experiences and qualities establishes a strong connection between them. Consequently, the viewers share this experience with the characters as if involved into action. Therefore, the psychological and social aspects of the movie as well as the racial question might encourage Hollywood to copy the movie. The only thing that is culturally unfamiliar to the American viewer is the nobility and aristocratic origin of Philippe. One presumes that this quality might be substituted with something similar to the respectful position in the society. However, other cultural traits coincide with the cultural setting of the European countries and America. Such aspects as disability, immigrants, problematic relationship between people are shared in the European and American community. Therefore, the commercial success of the movie is a result of the depiction of the shared social concerns. 

Furthermore, one of the best aspects of the discussed story is humor. It is not complicated, situational, and reveals rich personalities of the heroes. For instance, one of the prominent examples is when Philippe and Driss go to see opera. Driss is an ordinary person coming from something similar to a French ghetto, a representative of subculture or counterculture of the streets. He is not familiar with the manners appropriate for opera, which is why he expresses his emotions in the direct manner. The man in a costume similar forest or a bush causes Driss to burst in laughter. At first, Philippe does not welcome this reaction. However, the jokes of Driss make him realize that this situation is funny, and shares it with his neighbors. Moreover, one of the most comic moments is when Driss shaves Philippe. He decides to shave him gradually trying out different moustaches. First, he shaves out redneck’s moustache, then something similar to classic aristocratic shape. However, when almost none of the facial hair is left, Driss leaves Hitler’s moustache. Philippe does not welcome such transformation. However, Driss continues transforming him by making Hitler’s fringe. The situation becomes even funnier when Driss, the black person, imitates the German voice similar to the one in Hitler’s speeches. On the one hand, wide public can understand such humor, since it is based not on the play of words but on the actor’s talent and visuals. On the other hand, while translating a French wordplay, the essence of the humor might be lost. That is why the visual humor served its best for gaining the attraction of the wide public towards the movie. 

The Setting

Setting is one of the most important parts for any movie, disregarding the language and essence. In the beginning, the setting in the movie represents two different worlds of the main characters. Thus, the aristocratic Phillipe has a rich mansion, he wears expensive costumes, has servants. Moreover, his house is well decorated and has wooden furniture. Likewise, he has expensive cars, which highlight his status, but stay covered with the canvas cover in the yard. At the same time, a disabled person in the vehicle placed on a casual car is the only detail that depicts his actual life status. On the contrary, a small kitchen filled with junk food and strange men that look like criminals presents the world of Driss. Thus, the world of Driss is full of action whereas the Philippe’s stands still. Gradually, the viewer experiences the blend of the settings. Thus, the opera house fills with unsuitable Driss’s laughter whereas Driss wears an expensive suit. Additionally, one should pay attention to the music of the movie, which wrote the Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi. It highlights both dramatic and comic moments in the movie. Moreover, there is a contrast in movements of the characters, which is expressed through Philippe’s disability and Driss’s dancing skills. Moreover, motion plays a significant role in the movie because one of the characters is immobile whereas the other one bursts with energy. The vivid example of this is the scene with a black Maserati. When Driss wonders about the reasons why it is not used, Philippe replies that it is unsuitable. However, a few minutes later both of them rush at the full accelerating speed from the mansion with Driss driving the Maserati. This scene is very symbolic in the movie. Its meaning is that Driss drives Philippe to a life of action from his passive aristocratic tranquility. 

Additionally, the representation of European culture in the movie has certain resemblance to the American realities. There are usual places of action such as streets during the day or night, apartments, and others. Although the interior may differ because of the cultural basis, the overall depicted picture is familiar to an average American. That is why one may talk about the success of the movie in the USA.

The Reasons for Success

Furthermore, the analyzed patterns allow to differentiating the basic principles that resulted in the movie’s recognition by a domestic and international public. One should say that a film is a form of art, which offers practical, pictorial, dramatic, narrative, and musical mediums to present a story (Li et al. 2006). The mentioned factors in Intouchables depict the basic human values regarded as traditional. They are humanity, love, friendship, disability, parenthood and humor. The French movie industry produces many comedies, which makes people from other countries think that this genre is popular in this nation. That is why the choice of this genre affected the sympathy of the audience in some way. However, the dramatic aspect of the depicted story and the talented play of the actors added even more to its success. Moreover, the appeal to the traditional values and blended-in humor proved to be familiar to many nations, which caused its international success. Likewise, the fact that the story is based on the true events influenced a positive attitude towards the motion picture. Unlike the real prototype, an Arabic servant, Driss is a black immigrant. This fact adds to the success of the movie in the US. It appears that both countries have similar issues connected with international immigrants. The racial question in the US is sometimes difficult because of occasional xenophobia. That is why this movie is a role model for building the correct pattern of interracial communication. The example of true friendship between a Caucasian and African French serves best in understanding the need for interracial collaboration. Moreover, the main idea of the movie is that every person in the society is a human, disregarding one’s race, age or health conditions. Additionally, it depicts that even a person with a criminal past may play a positive and useful role in the society when given a chance. Therefore, it appears that the movie involves many intercultural traits that the audience of various countries shares. 

Consequently, the movie Intouchables could be reshot in Hollywood. Hollywood has released many dramas and comedies, which proves its interest towards the described topic. In addition, the social and cultural references in the movie reflect the problems of the society in the US. Thus, Hollywood could possibly adapt this movie to American viewers. However, this adaptation might involve the change of the balance of the commercial and cultural targets discussed in the beginning. A commercial success does not mean that the movie may have a deep impact on the audience. That is why a possible adaptation should be introduced to such directors and producers as Stephen Spielberg. At the same time, it would be interesting to watch an adaptation of this motion picture done by Quentin Tarantino because of his talent to create marvelous dialogues and actions scenes. Possibly, the united work of these two directors might be similar to the interaction of the main characters in the story. 


In conclusion, the analysis done in this paper suggests that the reason for the movie’s international and domestic commercial success is the blend of the discussed topics. More precisely, it addresses such themes as friendship, disability, humanity, love and parenthood. Moreover, the unity of drama and comedy produces an astonishing effect on the viewer grasping one’s attention until the end. Additionally, the interaction of the people with completely different psychological portraits and ways of life raises even more interest in the public. Furthermore, the film shows that all people ought to be humane and help each other. For example, the interaction of a Black immigrant and Caucasian French aristocrat results in friendship and mutual support. Therefore, the movie was highly appreciated by the domestic and international audiences. Moreover, Hollywood film studio could produce a replica of Intouchables. However, in this case the directors should address the question of balance between reaching public success and preserving a cultural value of the story.


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