Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
France/Italy, 1976. Lira Films, Adel Productions, Nova Films, Mondial Televisione Film. Screenplay by Franco Solinas, collaboration with Fernando Morandi. Cinematography by Gerry Fisher. Produced by Alain Delon. Music by Egisto Macchi, Pierre Porte. Production Design by Alexandre Trauner. Costume Design by Colette Baudot, Annalisa Nasalli-Rocca. Film Editing by Marie Castro, Henri Lanoe, Michele Neny. Cannes Film Festival 1976.
Despite winning a Cesar Award for Best Picture, this feels like a deeply underappreciated masterwork from Joseph Losey; it’s one of the finest films made in the seventies about World War II even if it is not as flashy as Seven Beauties or as poignant as Lacombe Lucien. Alain Delon is superb as an amoral art dealer who has no compunctions about giving desperate Jews very little money for the artwork that they are selling to survive. When a Jewish community newspaper confuses his gentile self with another man by the same name, Delon becomes obsessed with figuring out who the other man is, confused about whether or not it is a simple mistake or if someone is trying to get him in trouble with the Nazi-occupied French government. While the police look for the mysterious and unseen Robert Klein, Delon goes on a hunt himself, finding the man’s abandoned apartment (with a landlady played by a terrific Suzanne Flon) and attending a dinner party at a country estate hosted by the missing man’s friends (one of them played by a luminous Jeanne Moreau). The authorities are beginning to suspect that Delon’s Klein is trying to fool them by hiding in plain sight, but he is oblivious to the danger to his life and, while his friends offer him help to escape, he doggedly pursues the identity of a man who acts as a sort of doppelganger: is it a person or just a manifestation of his own mental state of mind, his fear tinged by guilt? Losey creates a slowly tightening intensity whose hold on you is invisible thanks to your own need to find out the secrets that Delon is captivated by.