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Dossier 51 More at IMDbPro »Le dossier 51 (original title)

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Spying inside someone's mind

Author: anonymous from US
25 June 1999

My favorite movie of all time. I've seen it once, when it came out in 1978, and I've never seen it since. But I can't stop thinking about it.

Somehow, others can see things in ourselves that we can't see, or refuse to see. And these observations are used against us, in small ways and in much larger circumstances.

Intrigue is my favorite genre in film. Not loud fights, car chases, or shoot-outs. The quiet contemplation of earth-shaking truths leaves me mulling the subject over and over and over.

In the film, an espionage agency seeks to compromise an employee of a foreign government. And to compromise that foreign government employee, the spies try to find his greatest weakness. The weakness that their target isn't even aware of proves to be the target's greatest weakness.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Don't miss this one

10/10
Author: sandytk from United States
2 April 2006

This movie pioneers techniques - the pseudo-documentary, the POV camera, the relentless naturalism - that have since been adopted by thriller directors around the world. If you have a chance to see this undiscovered gem, don't pass it up. The plot concerns an attempt to blackmail a diplomat. There are a variety of characters, including everyone from the irascible supervisor of the agents in question to a low-level agent who does undercover work so she can buy the latest kitchen appliances. It features scenes which have since been copied to death - the agent rehearsing lines and mannerisms with the team, the display board covered with photos and the like. The ending of the movie is particularly grueling in its matter-of-fact simplicity and machine-like, remorseless logic. Way ahead of its time, this film deserves a lot more attention than it has gotten.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

a great film that almost nobody has seen

10/10
Author: ak-22
14 November 2003

I saw this film on my university campus when it came out in the late 70s. For the time, it was a technical landmark, entirely shot from a subjective camera POV (For an example of a failure of this technique, see the 1946 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's LADY IN THE LAKE). I loved the film, not just for its technical bravura, but for its disturbing tone and intriguing narrative. I don't want to give anything away, but I just loved the way these amoral, aethical bastards seemed to love the work they did. And the film seems impossible to find! How films like this one escape critical acclaim is beyond me - I met Roger Ebert at a film festival in Virginia back in 2000 and stumped him on this one, even though I wasn't trying to. DEFINITELY check Dossier 51 out if you're a fan of thought-provoking films!

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A Life in Pictures : One of the best biopic of all time

10/10
Author: Paul Durango from Paris, France
15 June 2006

A movie about creation and perception, a big paste of shorts films, pictures and misc documents, about cinematographic language as it were in the late 70's

A foreign secret service put Dominique Auphal (a diplomat) under surveillance in order to find a psychological and/or social weakness in his life to ensure some kind of leverage to control him politically (by blackmailing). His life is analyzed, commented, discussed and rationalized. He's the File (number) 51.

First it can be seen as a view on an omnipresent figure representing oppressive control over individual lives ; a variation on Orwell's 1984 set in France in the late 70's describing a society with less privations and overwhelming authority. More realistic though as pessimistic as the novel.

Then it provides keys and show the 'everyone's watching everyone' just born-ed syndrome when secret services agents go on coarse or trivial comments about Auphal's personal life ('why in hell he's dating this girl ?' 'what kind of twisted guy has this kind of sexual fantasies'..) ; they're judging him beyond the psychological analysis they have to do and lose partiality. 30 years before 'garbage - who's fu**ing who -' reality TV, Michel Deville discusses about basic viewers pulsion and perversion.

About one third of the movie is overdubbed (messy voices-over spoken by secret services agents watching Auphal) footages of Auphal (51 in a street, in a park, at home ; spy cameras, photographs, sound recordings..) we are at heart with empathy. We both follow the POV (perception) of a secret service agent by watching those documents AND due to the fact that this investigation is merciless, so complete and meticulous we're deeply breaking in Auphal's life. This is a document produced by this secret service, the whole movie is created by them as it could be shown to an executive who wouldn't know the case.

Dominique Auphal is born during WWII, he was about 25 years old during the 1968 french events with everything that it involves, psychologically ; he's part of the generation that had no global war to handle, enjoying freedom of social, professional and sexual choices. The movie deserves to be seen just to get a good look on the France of those years..

"His Life's Facts" are thrown into your face during a hundred minutes : the movie is a list of things, facts, views about this man ; as in Antonioni's Blow-up (another one charactered movie about photographic and its medium perception), there's no great deal of action or mystery but the portrait of the loneliness of a man. One is surrounded by models, big money, The Yardbirds and creation during the swinging sixties (lucky lucky) whereas 51 is trapped in a strict and pretty depressing professional life (but a valuable position for other countries to have under control) and his sexual habits...

Technically, there's never-seen-before innovations (use of 'look through camera', POV shots, interview footages, jump cuts ; all mixed up) but Le Dossier 51 is also one the most incredible cinematographical portrait ever made, supported by great actors (François Marthouret as 51 and Roger Planchon as Esculape 1), state-of-the-art editing and cinematography.

To be watched along with : Le Prix du Danger (1983, Y.Boisset), The Conversation (1974, F.F. Coppola), Blow up (1966, M. Antonioni), Blow out (1981, B. De Palma), Je te tiens, tu me tiens par la barbichette (1979, J. Yanne) and everything discussing artistic mediums or/and medias.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

I saw that film once and now try to find somewhere

Author: hg-17 (hg@ukr.net) from Kyiv, Ukraine
23 May 2004

I saw 'Dossier 52' few years ago in Kyiv during French film festival. It represented the 70-th years of French ñinematography. I was impressed a lot. Everything - the way of shooting, the plot - was unusual. I was impressed how person was destroyed. But nobody from my friends as from Ukraine as from other countries never heard about it. It's strange because the 'Dossier' is one of the greatest movies about secret services and there terrible methods. I never saw any film on this subject. This film has no romantic and heroic aureole about them. And I recommend to everybody to watch 'Dossier' - it is useful for understanding the reality of our world. And also it is an interesting work of art representing period of the 70-80-th years.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A brilliant piece of film making. Where's the DVD?

Author: Apollo_11
7 July 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Directed by veteran Michel Deville (perhaps best know to local audiences for 1988's La Lectrice), this well-mounted espionage thriller documents a foreign intelligence agency's attempts to entrap and "turn" a minor French diplomat. The unwitting victim (played by FranÙois Marthouret) is a closeted homosexual; a variety of surveillance devices are deployed against him in an effort to gather compromising material. Deville's unorthodox approach is to tell the film from the surreptitious point-of-view of the sinister spies; we in the audience become uncomfortable voyeurs and eavesdroppers, complicit in the accumulation of evidence against the helpless target.

A brilliant film, well made, and should be available on DVD. What a shame!

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