Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: L’horloger de Saint-Paul
Alternate Title: The Clockmaker, The Watchmaker Of St. Paul
France, 1974. Lira Films. Screenplay by Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost, Bertrand Tavernier, based on the novel by Georges Simenon. Cinematography by Pierre-William Glenn. Produced by Raymond Danon. Music by Philippe Sarde. Production Design by Jean Mandaroux. Costume Design by Yvette Bonnay. Film Editing by Armand Psenny.
Philippe Noiret is the mild-mannered technician and artisan of the title, quietly working away at his small shop full of time pieces and enjoying evenings of robust intellectual discussions about political systems and societal change with his friends. The police come to his store and tell him that his son is on the run with his girlfriend after having committed a murder, bringing him to the couple’s last known whereabouts where they abandoned Noiret’s company van. He gives the authorities whatever information he can and before the day is out finds his doorstep being taken over by journalists, to whom he is far more forthcoming than is good for him but is too unstudied in the matter to know better. Getting wiser to the situation after being attacked at his own store by vandals, he goes in search of the woman who took care of his son when he was a young widower and placed him in her care, while police inspector Jean Rochefort follows behind in the hopes that he will lead him to the runaway couple. Noiret decides to stand by his son no matter what he has done, but his experience talking to this woman and then taking Rochefort into his confidence leads him to the saddest revelation of all, that he has raised and loved a child that he hardly knows. Drawn out and intelligently staid, this sober drama is the feature debut of Bertrand Tavernier, in which he confidently announces himself as a filmmaker who will not sacrifice his love of intellectually exploring a character’s emotional state in favour of dramatic excitement, taking on the internal style of literature and effectively placing it on screen with a great deal of skill. His characters and the situations he put them in would only get richer from here on in, his follow-up The Judge And The Assassin pursues a similar set-up in a period setting with a wider panorama of characters and situations, but as a first film this is impressive and poignant.