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The Salamander (1971)
"La salamandre" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  27 October 1971 (France)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 337 users  
Reviews: 3 user | 9 critic

Two men, arty though somewhat staid, are drawn to the spirited and quixotic Rosemonde, a young working-class woman whom they meet because they're writing a teleplay about a minor but ... See full summary »


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Title: The Salamander (1971)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Bulle Ogier ...
Jean-Luc Bideau ...
Jacques Denis ...
Véronique Alain ...
Daniel Stuffel ...
Le patron du magasin de chaussures
Marblum Jequier ...
La femme de Paul (as Marblum Jéquier)
Marcel Vidal ...
L'oncle de Rosemonde
Dominique Catton ...
Violette Fleury ...
La mère du patron du magasin de chaussures
Mista Préchac ...
La mère de Rosemonde
Pierre Walker ...
L'inspecteur de la Régie
Janine Christoffe ...
Catherine, une amie de Pierre
Guillaume Chenevière ...
L'inspecteur de police
Claudine Berthet ...
Zoé, la dactylo
Michel Viala ...
Le patron peintre en bâtiment


Two men, arty though somewhat staid, are drawn to the spirited and quixotic Rosemonde, a young working-class woman whom they meet because they're writing a teleplay about a minor but curious event in which either her uncle was wounded while cleaning his rifle or she shot him. Pierre is a free-lance journalist hired to write the script; he's short of time so he asks a Bohemian poet friend, Paul, to help. Pierre wants facts and tracks down Rosemonde for interviews that lead to other explorations; Paul only wants to imagine her and needs little more than her name to do so. But he does meet her, and she entangles him, too. Did she cause the shooting? Is she venomous or innocent? Written by <>

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Release Date:

27 October 1971 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Salamander  »

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Remade as Fourbi (1996) See more »

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Citoyenne Kane
17 April 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Most people see in Alain Tanner's movie "La Salamandre" a grotesque critique on everyday's life in Switzerland at the beginning of the 70ies. We see Tanner's films populated with the typical bearded men with their dark Pasolini-eyeglasses and their long shaggy hair. One wonders why they seem to attract rather good-looking girls in hippie-skirts and Moses-sandals ... . That must have been a time when someone's political conviction, marked on the outside, appeared sexy ... .

However, besides the occurrence of an officer for "good Swiss behavior" (a predecessor of the characters Max Bodmer and Moritz Fischer in Rolf Lyssy's legendary Swiss movie "The Swissmakers" (1978)), the plot of Tanner's "Salamandre" goes like that: A journalist and a writer get money for writing a scenario about Rosemonde, a young girl who supposedly killed her uncle. They decide to approach their task from to different sides: The one wants to meet Rosemonde and interview her in order to get the "facts". The other relies wholly on his fantasy in turning the facts into a story. The one is convinced that in order to write somebody's biography one has just to learn to know this person. The other thinks that the bare facts say nothing about a person, and only by aid of sensing what is between the facts, it is possible to draw someone's personality. Hence, both have to come to the conclusion, that neither way is sufficient, or even false, since it seems to be impossible on logical reasons to reconstruct a character - even of a living person. In the case of Citizen Kane, there was only reconstruction left. In the case of "Citoyenne Rosemonde", even description is failing, because she behaves like a salamander, negating her appearance in the moment when she shows it. And obviously, she loves that, despite her alleged naivety, she winds herself out of every possible angle with most elegant cleverness. So, this is in first line a movie about the impossibility to represent the objects or fact by signs. (In Tanner's hitherto last movie, a professor of semiotics disappears, leaving confusing traces to his students.) Traces are by definition ambivalent, and neither logical nor intuitive approaches are sufficient to reconstruct that person that left them - because none of these methods is semiotic and thus appropriate to the traces that are signs. But let us not forget: Although the two writers fail in reconstructing Rosemonde from her traces and signs - does this mean that she is for us, too, non-reconstructible? After all, we have witnessed her over two hours and a lot longer in psychological time. So, Tanner perhaps means that not the protagonists of the film, but the film itself may be appropriate to reconstruct the "real" Rosemonde - since the film is a semiotic medium.

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