Jean Doucet is a popular schoolmaster teaching in a small town in Normandy. At least he was... Until the day one of his pupils, Catherine Roussel, a garage owner's daughter, accuses him of ... See full summary »
Rene is not a bright guy. He was taught to kill by the Resistance. But the WW2 is over and he keeps on killing. He is condemned to death. In jail, expecting the presidential pardon, he mets... See full summary »
You're familiar with the tale of a corrupt cabal controlling a small town, right? The leading business man, the mayor, the police chief, and the banker are all involved, and have got the town all sewn up. And then one lone man of principle arrives and decides to clean the place up, right? Westerns, noirs, even samurai films have all used this plot countless times.
Here, Cayatte spends maybe forty minutes elaborately setting up this premise. When the new prosecutor arrives, a green but fearless novice of 24, he immediately sees much evidence of the rich contractor's hold over the town, including the roughing up of a crusading reporter. Even one of the contractor's cement trucks splashes dirt on him. His aging assistant, given six months to live by the doctor, urges restraint, and the assistant's interestingly attractive but willful daughter is drawn to the prosecutor, but refuses to get involved because she's looking for money. Then the prosecutor discovers that someone had been keeping a black-covered dossier about corruption in high places, and, right after this person had dinner with the contractor, he died of a supposed heart aneurism that night, and now the dossier has disappeared.
You can see where all this is going, right? The prosecutor will dig and dig, the bad guys will lean and lean on him, things will look bad and worse, and finally his life will be in danger. But in the last reel he'll expose the crooks, perhaps with the assistance of a heroic stand by his dying assistant, and the girl will come around to integrity and romance.
Wrong! After all this exposition, the film careens in one crazy direction after another. A whole series of other characters and plot details, enough for three or four films, overtake the film, and none of the careful and rather detailed build-up of the first half-hour is brought to a logical conclusion. The rich contractor, the interestingly attractive daughter, even the black dossier, poof, gone! Poor, earnest Cayatte... it turns out his focus isn't on the moral incorruptibility of the prosecutor, or on the evil machinations of power. What former-lawyer Cayatte really wants to do is to show the imperfections of the criminal justice system. I won't reveal the end but, unfortunately, all he's wound up with is a great big shaggy dog story!
The cast is excellent, of course, especially Blier who is only in the last half-hour or so as a special investigator, and it's a good, solid, professional film. There's no special reason to see it, though, unless you're interested in French films of the fifties... or have a special craving for carefully written, but weak and illogically constructed screenplays.
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