Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dir. by Jacques Deray

I think when they need to liquify nitrogen at a super-low temperature in France they just put it next to Alain Delon. He has the ability to switch from un chic type to un grand thug with great ease. The magnetism that Delon exerts is matched by that of Jean-Louis Trintignant, who plays a paranoid sociopath with savage style.

In Flic Story Delon plays the titular flic (French slang for a cop), Roger Borniche. He has been tasked with taking down Buisson (Trintignant), a homicidal lunatic on a violent crime spree. Borniche methodically stalks Buisson through a France still reeling in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation. The only drawback is that Buisson is a paranoid killer whose sudden shifts of plan and frequent executions of informers (real and suspected) make him unpredictable prey. Political pressures from France’s left-wing press and inter-departmental rivalries complicate Borniche’s job further.

Flic Story is gritty. It is nearly as violent as Bonnie and Clyde. The settings are as likely to be swanky nightclubs as seedy apartments. Sometimes the cops are hard to tell from the hoods. In Paris the favored method of interrogating a suspect is repeated punches to the face. Borniche struggles to retain his integrity while doing all in his power to stop Buisson’s rampage. He is less likely to break a man’s face, but can still break his spirit. The ultimate irony is that when all is said and done, the hunter and the hunted find themselves sharing a bond, albeit a forced one.

The film is based on the true story written by Borniche. It is reasonably faithful to the facts. I do recall Borniche was forthright about the queasy facts of serving in the police in the waning days of WWII, something the film cleans up a bit. Look for excellent work by the supporting cast as well, in particular Claudine Auger as Mrs. Borniche.

I recommend Flic Story for fans of police procedurals and hard-boiled crime drama generally.

-Dave Hardy


Charles Gramlich said...

I know the French had an early fascination with the Noir stuff. Sounds like these films come out of that.

Dave Hardy said...

Editions Gallimard came out with their “Serie Noir” back in the ‘30s or ‘40s. Those novels popularized a lot of American hard-boiled stories as well as creating a growing stable of French writers. Some of it crossed over both nationalities: Chester Himes was an American expat who wrote about black cops in Harlem for a French audience and succeeded in becoming popular in the US.

I think that the French film industry has considered making serie noir films as a serious activity as well as a training ground for new moviemakers. Consequently a lot of excellent directors have made quite a few good gangster films.