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On 9 January 1836, Pierre Lacenaire goes to the guillotine, a murderer and a thief. He gives Allard, a police inspector, his life story, written while awaiting execution. He also asks ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Pierre-François Lacenaire
Jacques Weber ...
Jacques Arago
Le père de Lacenaire
Geneviève Casile ...
La mère de Lacenaire
Jean Davy ...
Alphonse Damoiseau
Jacques Duby ...
Paul Le Person ...
Hermine (as Maïwenn Le Besco)
Jacques Sereys ...
Gérard Desarthe ...
Professeur Tonnelier
Jean-Damien Barbin ...
Marie-Armelle Deguy ...
Princesse Ida
L'abbé de Lusignan


On 9 January 1836, Pierre Lacenaire goes to the guillotine, a murderer and a thief. He gives Allard, a police inspector, his life story, written while awaiting execution. He also asks Allard to care for Hermine, a lass to whom he has been guardian for more than ten years. In flashbacks, from the prison as Lacenaire writes, from Allard's study as he and Hermine read, and from other readers' memory after the book is published, we see Lacenaire's childhood as he stands up to bullies, including priests, his youthful thieving, his first murder, his brief army career, his seduction of a princess, and his affair with Avril, a young man who dies beside him. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Biography | Drama


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Release Date:

19 December 1990 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Elegant Criminal  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


The investment by the Club des Investisseurs, comprised of Credit Lyonnais, Credit Agricole, Credit National, Worms, Epargne de France, Caisse des Depots and Sodete, was guaranteed by the French government's Institut pour le Financement du Cinema et des Industries Culturelles (IFCIC). See more »

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User Reviews

a hard sell on this side of the Atlantic
15 November 2010 | by See all my reviews

The improbable hero of this unusual French import is Pierre Lacenaire, a gentleman scoundrel whose flamboyant manner, articulate wit, and polite but profound contempt for a society he found hypocritical earned him many admirers, including the police detective responsible for sending him to the guillotine in 1836. The film might have been a leisurely, lightweight period comedy with little relevance outside its native country were it not for the eccentric (and sometimes dangerous) charm of its protagonist, shown arguing the case against himself with crowd pleasing panache during the final, farcical courtroom trial, demanding a death sentence to secure his own immortality. The film itself is equally playful and unpredictable, camouflaging its modest budget behind a curious leapfrog structure and several unexpected gestures too surprising not to be true. If Lacenaire were alive today he would likely regard it as the fulfillment of a dream come true: to see his entire life transformed into theatre.

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