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Friday, November 30, 2012 - Page updated at 02:30 p.m.

Movie review: Thriller ‘The Big Picture’ focuses on character

By Moira Macdonald
Seattle Times movie critic

Early on in the French psychological thriller “The Big Picture,” Paul (Romain Duris), a well-off young lawyer and amateur photographer, gazes at a photograph of a man. In it, there’s a shadow image of the man’s face, seeming to float separately of him: a doppelgänger, or a ghost? It’s of course a trick of photography, but it’s as good a metaphor as any for what happens to Paul, who midway through the film takes on another identity and floats away.

Based on Douglas Kennedy’s novel (the locations transported from the U.S. to Europe), “The Big Picture” begins with a story we’ve all heard before: a young family living in an elegant house in the (Paris) suburbs; a husband distracted by his work and by material acquisitions; an unhappy wife (Marina Foïs) who, the husband gradually realizes, has taken a lover. Confrontations occur, and suddenly Paul’s life is forever changed. Can a man escape a mistake and start again? Can he, in a sense, erase himself?

Director Eric Lartigau tells the story slowly, less interested in suspense than in character. The camera lingers on the beautiful interiors of the early scenes (and on the lovely glow of Catherine Deneuve, as Paul’s business partner), emphasizing the contrast with the more hardscrabble settings of the film’s second half. Duris (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped”), hiding under a shaggy mop of a hair, is haunted and quiet through much of the film. Stepping away from his old self, he’s gazing back, at an increasingly unrecognizable shadow.

Moira Macdonald: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2725