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This Man Must Die (1969)
"Que la bête meure" (original title)

GP  |   |  Thriller  |  20 October 1970 (USA)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 2,555 users  
Reviews: 24 user | 19 critic

Single father obsessed with murdering the hit&run driver who killed his only child, poses as a screenwriter to get close to an actress who was in the death car. He feels fully prepared to ... See full summary »

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Title: This Man Must Die (1969)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Michel Duchaussoy ...
Caroline Cellier ...
Jean Yanne ...
Anouk Ferjac ...
Marc Di Napoli ...
Louise Chevalier ...
Madame Levenes
Guy Marly ...
Lorraine Rainer ...
Dominique Zardi ...
Police inspector
Stéphane Di Napoli ...
Raymone ...
Michel Charrel ...
Le casseur
France Girard
Bernard Papineau
Robert Rondo ...
Le garagiste
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Storyline

Single father obsessed with murdering the hit&run driver who killed his only child, poses as a screenwriter to get close to an actress who was in the death car. He feels fully prepared to kill the pretty young woman if she was the driver, but as his knowledge of her family grows, so does his empathy for them. Written by David Stevens

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Thriller

Certificate:

GP | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

20 October 1970 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

This Man Must Die  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film is based on a British novel of the 1930s written (under a pseudonym) by the poet C. Day Lewis, and is one of several novels by him to feature as its hero the brilliant amateur sleuth Nigel Strangeways. This adaptation, in addition to moving the action to modern-day France, entirely leaves out this leading character (or any new French character equivalent to him). See more »

Connections

Referenced in Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Vier ernste Gesänge
Written by Johannes Brahms
Sung by Kathleen Ferrier
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User Reviews

 
The makings of Greek tragedy, but Chabrol has more up his sleeve in revenge flick
18 February 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In taking a slight cue from Alfred Hitchcock (one of Chabrol's heroes), but going another step further, This Man Must Die follows a logical turn of events for a single father who's son is run over in a hit and run by some cruel man in a fast car. In Hitchcock's hands this might be led by elegant stars, have even moments of scathing wit. But Chabrol's vision is a little darker, more that is seething under this surface, with the bourgeois as much of the commonplace as just the backdrop for the theater of revenge about to take place. But like the old master, Chabrol takes a twist with the material: as the father, Charles Thenier, going by an alias as a writer of children's books, gets more than acquainted with a woman who is the sister-in-law of the killer, gets to know the family more, and gets to know slimy, shrewd businessman and big-time garage owner Paul Decourt more, he's not really the only one out for his head.

As Chabrol goes further, it becomes a tale of Greek tragedy, or some variation on it. Paul's son, Philippe (a character as played by jean Yanne as if almost out of Bresson), hates his father with a passion, as his father has no respect for or tries to encourage his son with what he's got going on at school (perhaps conventionally, every scene with the father and son is a tense and violent outburst from father towards innocent son). One might think a collaboration might happen between the secretive, diary-writing Charles and the kind but frustrated kid, but this too isn't that simple. Chabrol also takes a smart tactic with that diary of Charles's; it could be just a narrative gimmick, and at times it feels as just that (maybe one of the film's only drawbacks, if only only on), but it does start to probe into a mindset that is one-track, and not without some reason in the genre sense. We're pitted on Charles's side, as he sneaks his way into Helen's heart, and then through her sometimes nice and other times (i.e. Paul's mother) savage in their verbal brutality.

But this same diary works as a something of a step-up from a psychological MacGuffin. Chabrol twists around with plot into motivation, and he pulls it off with his shooting and editing style, which applies just small, precise touches of the good old French New Wave into the proceedings (the occasional jump-cut, as any filmmaker knows, can't hurt under the right circumstances). What Chabrol's brilliant achievement is to transcend the trappings of a revenge film and to explore what the nature of malevolence brings past a simple crime- certainly these bastards have families, if they have the capacity to clear up their crimes with such skill like an owner of a hugely profitable auto-body/garage- and at the same time put a human angle into a plot that requires it. The actors do what they can (the man playing Charles, who I have not seen in other films, is very good in the lead, as is in his own right the man playing Paul Decourt, adding some layers to this rotten being), and despite some clunky scenes that do have to deal with the plot, there's some wit thrown in under the surface ("It's not a needle in a haystack, more like a needle in a box of needles,").

If This Man Must Die isn't a great film, and I'm not sure it is, it is at least a very successful example of finding some of the cracks in a revenge mystery, of adding that superlative mix of character into plot, and seeing what makes things like a diary, or a slip off a cliff, or an ambiguous ending, tick.


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