Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
France/West Germany/Italy, 1974. Nouvelles Editions de Films, Universal Pictures, Vides Cinematografica, Hallelujah Films. Screenplay by Louis Malle, Patrick Modiano. Cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli. Produced by Louis Malle, Claude Nedjar. Production Design by Ghislain Uhry. Costume Design by Corinne Jorry. Film Editing by Suzanne Baron.
Possibly Louis Malle’s masterpiece, a superb film about a restless young man who ends up dancing with the devil because of his desire for adventure. The title character is a peasant boy in Nazi-occupied France who looks to join the resistance, but upon rejection because of his young years shacks up at a hotel and joins the collaborators who perform interrogations against their own people. Lucien’s contact with a Jewish tailor who is paying off the group in order to keep his business alive brings him close to the tailor’s beautiful daughter and romance, against all political odds, sparks between them. Malle balances brilliant dialogue, subtle direction and a constant atmosphere of budding youth about to burst into maturity throughout, a fascinating character study and heartbreaking drama that manages to make someone so wholly reprehensible (is there any lower you can get than being the devil’s assistant) somehow a tragic figure worth lamenting. The film has a beautiful sense of the period and some magnificent performances as well, including non-professional Pierre Blaise, who sadly died in a motor accident a year after this film’s release, in the lead role.
The Criterion Collection: #329
Academy Award Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film