After his portrayal of former baseball coach Billy Beane, the American director now examines with Foxcatcher, presented in Competition at Cannes, the tragic links that brought together John E. du Pont, a paranoid multimillionaire found guilty of murder, and two champion wrestlers. He also confirms his penchant for real-life dramas and characters in the sporting world who diverge from conventional patterns of behaviour.
Photo from the film © RR
One of the most widely-accepted rules of professional filmmaking has it that good cinema and sport rarely mix. Released in 2011, Moneyball, the second feature film directed by Bennett Miller, aimed to give the lie to accepted wisdom by avoiding the pitfalls to which the genre is sometimes prey. Supported by archive images, this stylised portrait established its credentials by building its intrigue around the relationships between the characters. The film also stood out for its caustic ripostes and the magnetic performance given by Brad Pitt, impeccable as baseball coach Billy Beane.
Bennett Miller’s cinema aims to retrace real events and to focus on carefully selected aspects of the lives of the personalities he depicts, thus minimising the purely chronological and fictionalised approach characteristic of the biopic. The American director has opted for a similar approach with Foxcatcher, his third feature film. The movie’s plot is based on the relationship between two brothers, both champion wrestlers, and John E. du Pont, the wealthy and eccentric sponsor of the American freestyle wrestling team known as “Foxcatcher".
The filmmaker thus re-immerses himself in the sporting world, but on this occasion turns his attention to an incident that took place in 1996: the murder of one of the two brothers, Olympic champion Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) by the cyclothymic billionaire, played on screen by Steve Carell. The film’s screenplay is based on the autobiography of Mark Schultz (played by Channing Tatum), the dead champion’s brother, an Olympic champion in the same discipline in 1984, and who was visited by Bennett Miller..
"The problem with biopics is that you need to reconcile two types of truth. There is the truth of history, the actual facts, for which you need to very accurate, and then there’s a universal truth that has led you to tell this particular story,” he explained when Moneyball was first released. “That’s the trick you try to pull off: focusing on one anecdote so you can portray a universal truth.”
Monday 19th May / Grand Théâtre Lumière / 8.30am – 3.00pm – 7.00pm
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