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A French boarding school run by priests seems to be a haven from World War II until a new student arrives. He becomes the roommate of top student in his class. Rivals at first, the roommates form a bond and share a secret.
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As France is nearing the end of the first Indochina War, an open-minded teenage boy finds himself torn between a rebellious urge to discover love, and the ever-present, almost dominating affection of his beloved mother.
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Florence Carala and her lover Julien Tavernier, an ex - paratrooper want to murder her husband by faking a suicide. But after Julien has killed him and he puts his things in his car, he finds he has forgotten the rope outside the window and he returns to the building to remove it...Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The German tourists' Mercedes-Benz 300SL W198 "Gullwing" was the fastest production car of its day. It is the first production car with direct fuel injection, which is why the characters mention that the engine has no carburetors. See more »
When Louis can't start the Mercedes, Horst Bencker reveals that the car won't start because he's taken first gear out. However, with no further changes, Louis is able to drive off five minutes later. See more »
Commissaire de police:
Anything's good for an alibi. Wives, girlfriends, bartenders, childhood friends, deceived husbands - but not an elevator. That's ridiculous. It's totally harebrained.
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No need to recap the plot. The movie really represents a triumph of form over content. Seldom have I seen a smoother technique than director Malle shows here. The transition from scene to scene is almost seamless and keeps the viewer engaged regardless what's developing plot-wise. Then too, Decae's camera work shows how compelling natural lighting can be. The overall effect is one of effortless fluidity, a style well suited to lyrical subjects.
The trouble is the material itself is better suited to Hollywood B-movie techniques. In short, the material is jagged, while Malle's style is smooth, resulting unfortunately in a thriller drained of inherent drama. Note, for example, the elevator sequence, a predicament fairly bursting with suspenseful potential. Yet Malle's style does little to heighten the implicit desperation and even cuts away (though smoothly) from the mounting tension. To be fair, Ronet (Tavernier) adds nothing by remaining impassive throughout. (Perhaps paratroopers never sweat.) Thus the movie's dramatic centerpiece flattens out into just one more event among many.
Then there are the various misadventures of the free-spirited kids. They look cuddly, but remain amoral cyphers throughout, their double homicide coming across again as just one more event, no more important than Florence's (Moreau) dispirited walk up the avenue. In fact, the one time Malle highlights with his camera is that lengthy trudge through Paris, a director clearly fascinated by Moreau's distinctive appearance. Again, the style is smooth and polished, but also highly impersonal and homogenizing. I kept wishing one of Hollywood's noir masters like Nicholas Ray or Billy Wilder had gotten hold of the material first.
No need to go on apart from Malle about a sloppy script with its number of plot holes helpfully cited by other reviewers, or about overlooked details like a bullet to the head that raises no blood. All in all, I wonder how many folks would celebrate the film if it were not from France with Malle's name on it. Apart from its influence on French cinema, the movie does not wear well over time. Moreover, given the style he shows here, it's no surprise to me that Malle's breakthrough movie would be titled The Lovers rather than this over-civilized slice of thick ear.
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