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Very, very well done and a superior version of Landru's life and crimes than that of Claude Chabrol

8/10
Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
10 May 2015

Chabrol's 1963 film is still very interesting and entertaining, it looks great, has some deliciously sardonic dialogue, a real sense of evocative atmosphere and Charles Denner's ideal performance as Landru. But for me, this film from 2005 was superior, it has more depth, treats the subject and the man more sympathetically and is more controlled.

Like Chabrol's film, Desire Landru(2005) could have been a little better, a couple of subplots were not as developed as they could have been and didn't add an awful lot and while more interesting and much less tedious than how it was depicted in Chabrol's film the trial is too rushed, more could have been done with how Landru defended himself in court. However, the film does look great, the landscapes and scenery are very elegant, the period detail so effective in how evocative it is it is like early 20th century France come to life(if not quite as much as with Chabrol) and it's skilfully photographed. There is a better music score here too, on its own it is beautiful and has moments of great tension and even better is how well it fits with the film, being remarkably subtle.

While I did enjoy how Chabrol's film was written, more so than most anyway, I still prefer the writing and the way the story is told here. The two versions took two very different approaches, Chabrol's was more sly, more cynical and more sardonic whereas the writing here was more controlled and dealt with the subject more seriously and matter-of-factly. There are instances where the dialogue is still very witty and playful in the early parts but generally is more composed and thoughtful at the same time without ever dissolving into melodrama, which it could easily have done considering the subject. Like Chabrol's film, Desire Landru(2005) deals with Landru's life and crimes very closely and presents it in a way that's interesting despite having a more serious and measured approach than the earlier version. The scenes with Landru and the women are charming with a foreboding undercurrent when you know what's going to happen and the crimes and methods are chilling and suspenseful. This version apart from the rushed trial is much more consistently paced, Chabrol's pacing is mostly fine but the trial in his version doesn't have anywhere near the level of detail seen in the rest of the film and the pace slackened as a result. Here, the pacing is very controlled and assured throughout, but not once does it get dull.

The direction is deft, and like Chabrol(though Chabrol handles it a little stronger, so evocatively done it was in his version that you could literally smell, feel and hear it), does a good job evoking the cultures, atmosphere and environment of early 20th century France. The characters are given more depth and dealt with more sympathetically, even Landru. The urbane-charm-on-the-surface and chillingly irredeemable monster traits are more than present and not once trivialised, even when a dose of humanity is injected, quite a feat considering that Landru was one of the most infamous serial killers of all time. Patrick Timsit's performance as Landru is even more brilliant than that of Charles Denner's for Chabrol, it is a softer and more subtle interpretation and with even more of the urbane charm, cynical wit and menace. The women are all touchingly played.

All in all, very, very well done version and while Chabrol's film has a lot to recommend it in a lot of ways I found this to be the more superior version of Landru's life and crimes. 8/10 Bethany Cox

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