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Inspector Gallien is investigating the rape and murder of two little girls. The only suspect is attorney Jerome Martinaud, but the evidence against him is circumstantial. As the city celebrates New Year's Eve, Gallien calls Martinaud to his office and interrogates him for hour after hour while Martinaud continues to maintain his innocence. We learn all about the evidence; we meet Martinaud's wife and learn all about the rift between the two; but will we, and Gallien, finally learn whether Martinaud is guilty? Written by
Miller is not well known in North America. He made a superb first feature called La meilleure facon de marcher, about two young instructors at a summer camp. One terrorizes the other with insults and physical abuse designed to provoke a homosexual response. The typical Miller film has a central figure under a lot of pressure, either self-imposed or coming from others. Here we have a rich lawyer (Serrault, so wonderful in La cage aux folles) accused of raping and killing two young girls. He is being interrogated on New Year's eve in a sterile office by two detectives who would rather be out celebrating.
As the night wears on, Serrault becomes more and more frustrated and anguished since the questioning turns as much on his married life as on his alibis for the two girls. His marriage is a sham; his wife married him for his money and they haven't made love in ten years. Romy Schneider made a great cameo as the wife resigned to her wretched, loveless but upwardly-mobile arrangement. She died soon after the film was released.
The main characters are all superbly played. Guy Marchand is the dumber of the two cops; he's sweating under the lights and hates the accused man even more for his veiled insults. Lino Ventura plays Gallien with a fine combination of tact and anger. He can't forget the photos of the victims.
I'll just mention Bruno Nuytten's fine camera work; the night scenes in a steady rain are well done. This is one of the finest crime films from France and should be widely seen.
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