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Time Out says
Tue May 30 2006The French crime thriller has long had a love-hate relationship with its more (commercially) powerful American counterpart – from Hollywood’s embrace of the fatale atmospherics of ’30s French poetic realism to Melville’s complimentary refinements of the cruder energies of post-war US film noir. Olivier Marchal’s hard-nosed ‘36’ – an unsentimental, slightly OTT portrait of the ruthlessly competitive police heirarchies stationed at the Quai des Orfèvres – is out of tune with recent efforts to re-emboss the French policier with a recognisably Gallic stamp (and a deeper social and psychological emphasis) by directors such as Bertrand Tavernier (‘L627’) and Xavier Beauvoir (the upcoming ‘Le Petit Lieutenant’).
Ex-cop Marchal opts instead for the wholesale import into the elegant Paris arrondissements of recent American modes such as moral cynicism, tokenistic character development and tacit racism, along with battlefield-level firepower.
The result is a curious hybrid: a vision of LA-sur-Seine, overrun by military-efficient ethnic gangsters and Uzi-wielding cops, elegantly shot (by Denis Roudenas) in steely hues and ’Scope and as compelling in its way as Godard’s dystopian ‘Alphaville’. If most of the pleasures are probably unintentional, so be it – the preposterous dawn Rue de Rivoli robberies and abandoned warehouse firefights are sweetly reminiscent of ‘The Sweeney’ and ‘The Professionals’. But the discomforted performances by the crème of French thespians – André Dussollier (as the police commissioner), Daniel Auteuil (the embattled, knowingly corrupt copper’s copper) and Gérard Depardieu (his unscrupulous, drunken, loner rival for the top job) – offer a fascinating glacial sheen which neatly reflects the film’s languid moral relativism. Needless to say, the Hollywood remake is under way.
Author: Wally Hammond
Fri Jun 2 2006