(‘A Self-Made Hero’, ‘Read My Lips’) translates to modern-day Paris the dilemmas of James Toback’s 1978, New York-set ‘Fingers’ – the story of a young man caught between art and crime, between his own ambitions and those of his father – in an audacious move that reverses the old chestnut that you should ignore the remake and hunt down the original instead. In place of Harvey Keitel’s Jimmy Fingers, Audiard gives us 28-year-old Thomas Seyr (
), an archetypal slick and streetwise Parisian – always immaculately suited and booted – and a man who is in perpetual conflict with himself as the victim of a dual, contrasting inheritance from his wheeler-dealer father, Thomas (
) and his late concert-pianist mother, Sonia. When we first encounter Thomas, he is very much his father’s boy – he works as a heavy-handed employee of a dodgy property firm – but a chance encounter with a piano teacher, an old acquaintance of his mother, leads to an offer of an audition and a decision by Thomas to turn his back on the manhandling of wayward tenants and instead prepare himself for a career in music. Thomas hires a Vietnamese piano teacher, Miao Lin (
Linh Dan Pham
), but his impatience and brash manner mean that he approaches piano lessons as he does real-estate – as a hustler.‘You gonna make dough from pianos?’ asks one of Thomas’s sceptical colleagues. ‘Not pianos. The piano,’ Thomas snaps back, yet his new ambition never really convinces. Rather, like the ill-defined sexual encounters that Thomas enjoys with his friend’s wife, the piano is an experiment, a means for Thomas to attempt to redefine his place in the world. Audiard’s nuanced (and very well-performed, especially by Duris) character study is ultimately about fathers and the shadow they throw over their sons’ lives. The film’s opening scene depicts a friend of Thomas analysing his own relationship with his ageing dad (‘You wake up one morning and you’ve switched places’). In retrospect, it stands as a prologue to Audiard’s intelligent study of Thomas’s own life.