Starring: Alain Delon; Jean-Louis Trintignant; Claudine Auger; Renato Salvatori; Maurice Biraud; Andre Pousse
Directed: Jacques Deray
Studio: Kino Video DVD K 410
Video: Enhanced for 16:9, Color
Audio: PCM mono
Length: 107 minutes
If classic American cinema has Detective Story (1951), the French have their 1975 Flic Story, based on the memoir by Roger Borniche (Alain Delon), the chain-smoking, trench-coat toting detective who tracked down multiple killer and escaped bank robber Emile Boisson (Trintignant) in 1947. Post-war France was still trying to recover from the Nazi occupation and its own sense of collective guilt when Boisson went on a crime spree, having escaped from a mental institution. Boisson’s cold-blooded murders and brazen robberies soon become a political football for the competing police force organizations, each eager to seize credit for apprehending the vicious public enemy. Director Deray delineates the true-crime drama in brisk, unsentimental fashion, often emphasizing the brutality on both sides of the law, and the strange, compelling loyalty Boisson elicited from his fellow culprits.
Even without the gritty black & white which characterize classic film noir, Deray uses stark lighting and dark color hues to convey the menace in the very air of his narrative. In the midst of a bistro dance, Boisson appears like fixated specter, blasting any number of holes in the accordion player. He wrongly suspects Mario the Wop as a police informer and assassinates him on a dirt road. Boisson and his henchmen appear at a fancy restaurant and systematically rob every watch, wallet, and jewel. In a classic car shootout, Boisson seems to savor blasting pursuant motorcycle cops with his P-38, his preferred weapon of choice. Yet Boisson can induce a prostitute to interfere with Detective Borniche’s aim, lest he blast Boisson from a rooftop. When Borniche tries the same daring flight through the air, he topples backwards to land ingloriously on his posterior.
At first, Borniche resists the temptation to apply physical torture to make Boisson’s suspected confederates speak; but he slowly concedes to political pressure, even going so far as to risk his own girlfriend (Claudine Auger) in a ploy to capture Boisson alive. The narrative flow in a semi-verite perspective, with Delon’s occasionally addressing the camera directly. The sang-froid Trintignant projects is never more evident than in the bland expression he assumes in his capture and allocutions. Delon, the eternal matinee idol, plays Borniche with a mixture of coy detachment a la Bogart and a slight bewilderment, often parrying with some equivalent of I’m doing the best I can. Each of the adversaries is a confirmed individualist and rebel, and Borniche freely confesses his open admiration of Boisson’s campaign. The moral implications of Boisson’s inevitable punishment seem just a bit compromised by the ironies of Deray’s aggressive visual style.