Another proof positive that the French cinema was not moribund in the late fifties and that it did not need any savior ! This is the work of a young man who was 71 and who was younger than yesterday.
"Assassins Et Voleurs" is another gem from the old wave ,with an extraordinary screenplay which could be described ,for someone who do not know Sacha Guitry ,as "Billy Wilder in an insane asylum"!Yes ,it's that much good! Opening sequence :a man is sitting at his desk and you expect the director himself as it was often the case in the past;but it's not !It's Jean Poiret who teams up with his then-collaborator Michel Serrault (like Martin and Lewis, they began as a team,Poiret Et Serrault before going their own way and working both with Claude Chabrol in the eighties).But Guitry's fans know that Poiret plays Guitry himself;"Assassins Et Voleurs " is primarily a settlement of scores :Guitry had never forgotten the way he was treated in the Liberation days .What a coincidence! the scene of the trial follows the scenes in which the hero is confined to a "convalescent home" (actually an insane asylum) ,and the only witness (Darry Cowl in a five-minute tour De force) mistakes the courtroom for a stage or for ...anything but a courtroom.
The first part explodes all the clichés of the Theatre De Boulevard: a man pretends he saves a woman who pretends she's drowning;this person is a former schoolmate's wife ,the secondary school bully who treated him as his punching bag !to become his erstwhile persecutor's wife's lover,what a sweet revenge! But the two lovers do not try to hide cause fear is part of the game ,and they carry on openly in public in the cafés ,or in a department store (32 beds to make love!),or in an empty car in a railway station at night (but they are disturbed because the railroad men need to hitch the carriage up to a train leaving ).
The second part surpasses ,if it is possible the first one:a shaggy -dog story .In the mental hospital ,a guy who lost all his dough playing chess ,goes on playing with bottles,glasses and lumps of sugar as the king,the queen or the bishop;a couple,man and wife ,are both insane ;but the husband thinks he's sane and she's crazy and vice versa .We learn to steal a diamond with Plasticine (it may be of some use),without guns and violence (as Serrault tells us at the beginning:if the victims were more sensible,we wouldn't have to be brutes ,there would not be bloodshed!) My favorite scene is the housebreaking: Poiret passes himself for an engineer,coming to check the cracks in the walls (the building may fall down!).He asks the maid for help :all she 'll have to do is to probe the walls with a hammer (=Marteau in French and "Etre Marteau" = to be nuts)while he is stealing the valuables .
In his late works ,Guitry had an obsession with old age and death;here he thumbs his nose at death ,in an unexpected immoral ending (but in a world gone crazy it's difficult to tell where morality is).
I wish the New Wave had had one tenth of Guitry's wit and sense of humor !This maybe the funniest comedy of the French late fifties and a must for everyone interested in this cinema.
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