26 August 2003 | lefrelonvert
"Le brasier" was announced, at the time of its release, as a very ambitious project. It had the highest-budget ever for a french film (100 million francs- the record has since been broken several times), an unusual amount of money since it was thrust into the hands of a first-time director.
Despite huge publicity, the movie flopped heavily. When you see it, you kind of understand why. Although some scenes are well-made, and some images striking (director Eric Barbier most certainly has an eye) the plot suffers from some cliched melodrama elements. The coal mine environment just feels unoriginal at times. Also, the film suffers from an uneven cast. Jean-Marc Barr is an ok performer, but just doesn't have the necessary charisma to carry a whole movie on his shoulders. It was rather daring to give him a starring role since his only well-known role at the time was "Le Grand Bleu" (a hit, but only one hit). Marushcka Detmers hadn't been in a hit movie for years - and hasn't been since. You barely remember her after seeing the film. Better performances are given by Thierry Fortineau and François Hadji-Lazaro. But Serge Merlin's awfully over-the-top performance as the evil businessman nearly sinks the second half of the film, which also succumbs to preachy political correctness.
In the end, what was destined to be a classic (and pretentiously aimed at being one even before its release) is just a forgettable melodrama, with just a few beautiful scenes. Too bad.