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This movie was too ahead if its time for its own good;the political movie was trendy in the seventies in Frence but these flicks were spectacular,Manichaean,with lots of events-of-May-68 thrown in for good measure.The cops and the politicians were the villains ,the young gents (they were often students,journalists lawyers ,teachers,etc)were the heroes.
Actually,"Le Petit Marcel " (the title is deceptive ,making the viewer think he's going to watch a comedy)is Pialat's overrated "Passe Ton Bac d'Aboard" (=take your high school diploma before) forerunner.With one exception,this youth has no "Bac" to take .They have become rebels without a cause ,they do not go to school anymore,they do odd jobs now and then .In the town where they live ,nothing was made for them .
Enter Marcel (Jacques Spiesser): he's got nothing but an old lorry and he hopes he 'll make enough dough to buy a garage.He,too ,does casual work ,being the mover for a retired teacher who leaves his old house for a public housing unit(significantly,the teacher will not reappear again although the book he gave to Marcel plays a small part in the plot)
Marcel seems a good guy ,but there are cracks in the mirror:although he seems to be part of the pack,he 's more a witness than an player ;although he sleeps with a girl of the pack (Isabelle Huppert),she's finally a pain in the neck to him ;although he seems at odd with the police,the captain fascinates him with his educated wife (Anouk Ferjac),his desirable house and his billiard table .Some of his friends belong to the far right wing,they smashed his young friends's face in ,but he begins to realize that his world is no longer theirs.
Marcel is almost a neuter character;he does not want to get involved in the pack's business.Jacques Spiesser was ideally cast as Marcel.Except during the last scenes,he seems to be overtaken by events.Jacques Spiesser excels in this kind of parts:remember the pacifist soldier in Boisset's "RAS",the geographer in " La Victoire En Chantant " aka" Black and White in Colors " by Annaud .In the three movies,his evolution is stunning: a positive rebellion in the movie about the Algeria War ,his character takes no longer a rebel stand in the two other movies.A war profiteer in Annaud's work,he ,little by little ,becomes an informer.One will never praise Yves Robert's performance enough too : he knows that Marcel lost his father several years ago and that he never overcame the pain.Marcel ,unconsciously,sees the figure of a father.Robert plays a "human" captain ,who,unlike his subalterns who humiliate the young man,treats him gently , friendly ,kindly...Marcel,who is not very clever,cannot see what his game is .He is akin to Louis Malle's "Lucien Lacombe" ;like him ,he tries to find a way to get out of his wretched situation.
The last scene,one of the strongest of the French cinema of the seventies ,makes sense.Now that he has betrayed his friends ,now that he has lost his lorry,he can join his "father"'s side without tears.Marcel is not good,he's not bad either.He's an immature person:like Malle's Lucien was fascinated by a suit and a tie ,Marcel dreams of beautiful blue uniform."Le petit Marcel" is the best political movie of the FRench seventies.With its plot where nothing (or almost nothing ) happens,it 's better than any Boisset's
or Cayatte 's stuff of the era.
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