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Lucien Lacombe Movie Review

malle blaise clement aurore

In this 1974 film by Louis Malle, we are presented with an unlikely object of audience sympathy. Lucien (Pierre Blaise) smashes little birds with slingshots, finks on the village schoolmaster who's a member of the French resistance, and forces himself on his Jewish girlfriend immediately after her father has been picked up by the Nazis. Through it all, newcomer Blaise gives an accurate performance as the detached, dispassionate, even dumb farmboy-turned-German cop, except when he repeatedly narrows his eyes just like the bad guys in old Hollywood movies. It's a tricky topic for a 130-minute picture, especially one as leisurely paced as this one. Malle de-emphasizes Lucien's every action. Even when Lucien helps his girl and her granny flee from the Nazis, Malle gives him a plausible motivation: the arresting officer has just ripped off Lucien's stolen watch. Naturally, Lucien has a characteristic plan to get it back, and, only incidentally, get his friends off the hook. Because of Lucien's predictability, there are few genuine surprises in the film, but one of the best plot strands shows the relationship Lucien develops with his tailor (Holger Lowenadler) and his daughter (Aurore Clement). Grudgingly, and for individual reasons, the three learn to accept or, at least, get used to one another as human beings, despite considerable underlying tension. Lucien has the choice of turning them in or not, the girl can use Lucien to get her to Spain and, sadly, the tailor comes to realize that his family's safety depends entirely on his daughter's acceptance of Lucien's attentions. Clement does a graceful, touching job as the girl, and Lowenadler's portrait of the tailor is a perfect blend of restrained anger and opportunistic dignity. Stunningly photographed by Tonino Delli Colli, Lacombe, Lucien is an absorbing movie on many levels. (Cast Note: Pierre Blaise died at 24, the year after Lacombe, Lucien was released; Aurore Clement later starred in 1983's Paris, Texas for Wim Wenders.)

1974 130m/C FR Pierre Blaise, Aurore Clement, Holger Lowenadler, Therese Giehse; D: Louis Malle; W: Louis Malle, Patrick Modiano; C: Tonino Delli Colli; M: Django Reinhardt, Andre Claveau.

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