With a friend like Harry ... (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

The last two summers haven't represented the apex of Hollywood's contribution to the planet, which allowed some offbeat foreign films to sneak into America under the radar this summer.

"With a friend like Harry ... who needs enemies?" is an out-and-out Hitchcock film. It includes character names from some of The Master's previous films, liberal use of his camera techniques, and a plot which owes a substantial debt of gratitude to "Strangers on a Train" . I don't mean to say that this film is merely in the manner of Hitchcock, ala "Final Analysis" or "The Bedroom Window",  or indebted to Hitchcock, like "Blood Simple". No, this IS a Hitchcock film. The French director, Dominik Moll, really tried to make the film that Hitchcock would have made if he were still with us (and spoke French).  Moll is really good at this, so why not make another Hitchcock film if you can really pull it off? 


Sophie Guillemin shows her buns, in good light, in a nude conversation.
 Have you ever been the object of a friend's love that you simply couldn't return, or of the worship of a pseudo-friend that really made you uncomfortable? Then picture this:

You stop for a potty break at a rest stop on the interstate, and run into an old high school acquaintance. He remembers everything about you, even though you can't remember him at all. He goes on an on about your friends and family, and he knows details even you have forgotten. 

He and his girlfriend seem innocent enough, so you invite them over to the house, and it is over dinner and drinks that you find his knowledge of you to be deeply disturbing. Oh, you're no writer but, like many people, you wrote a poem in the literary gazette in high school. Your visitor not only remembers the poem, he has it memorized. Not only that, but he remembers another unfinished work that you created in school, but never completed, and can barely remember.

At first, you though this guy's memories of you were flattering. But this level of attention is downright creepy. This guy doesn't seem to be a homosexual, but it is obvious that you were his first love! What is not so obvious, but reveals itself slowly, is that this guy is as nutty as a fruitcake. He doesn't have both oars in the water. The gate is down and the light is flashing, but there's no train coming. He has some splinters in the Windmills of his Mind.

Worse than that, he's in your house, and there's no getting rid of him or his attentions. Ultimately, the story boils down to the fact the he wants you all to himself, and he won't share you - not with your wife, your daughters, your parents .....

So who will kill whom and how soon? And will they regret it?

Cool movie. It is in French, but the American dubbing isn't too bad, so you can watch it dubbed or sub-titled. I watched the English track with the English subtitles, and was astounded to see how completely different they were. Sorry to say I can't tell you which was better, since I don't know French, but I enjoyed the film.

The director uses virtually no background music. He builds tension with the ambient noise, and the additional soundtrack consists entirely of a really creepy, old version of the American chestnut "Ramona", as sung with a very heavy accent. (I think by Delores Del Rio) 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • English dubbing or subtitles or both

  • no extras

Tuna's commments:

Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien (2000) (With a Friend Like Harry, Who Needs Enemies) is listed as a comedy thriller at IMDB, but is more of a thriller with part of a toe in the slasher genre. The film is in French, with imaginative sub-titles. IMDB readers say 7/5/10, Berardinelli says 3 stars, as does Ebert, and the film was nominated for nearly all the Cesar's, and won 4 of them. Michel is on his way to his summer house with his wife and three young daughters. he kids are hot and irritable, and they stop for a break. Michel goes in to splash water on his face, and runs into someone he attended school with. Even though Michel doesn't remember Harry, he is gracious, and ends up with Harry and Harry's fiancee Plum following them home. Harry is wealthy, and, according to Plum, solves things. Michel is uneasy, but has no idea what is in store for him.

The director lets the audience in on the secret from the beginning, but suspense is generated as we wonder when Michel will catch on, and how many people will die. Sophie Guillemin shows her buns in a lengthy scene, lots of leg, and cleavage. This is the first film I have seen with a slasher motif (everyone knows about the horror except those involved) that uses no gore, and very little violence. It builds steadily to rousing conclusion.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, BBC 4/5.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 96% positive reviews, 100% from the inner circle.

  • Highly awarded in France. Winner of several Cesars, including best director, nominated for several more.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.5 
  • With their dollars ... it wasn't a smash, hit, but it took in $4 million in the USA, which is excellent for a French film. It was successful in Spain and France. It took in about $16 million in France, very solid in a country with 1/5 the population of the USA.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Solid genre film. (Tuna says B-)

Return to the Movie House home page