Max is a Paris detective, aloof, independently wealthy, and frustrated by gangs of robbers whom he cannot catch. To re-establish his stature and save face, he decides to inveigle a group of petty thieves (led by an old acquaintance) to rob a bank. A reluctant captain provides Max intelligence and Max starts spending evenings with Lilly, a prostitute who's the girlfriend of the group's leader. He poses as a rich banker with money to burn and encourages Lilly to think about her future. He hints at a payroll that comes through his bank. The plot works, the petty thieves think they're ready for a big score, and the cops are in place. What could go wrong with Max's cold plan? Who's entrapped?Written by
'Max et les ferrailleurs' - a fascinating overlooked gem
Undeservedly neglected, 'Max et les ferrailleurs' is one of the most intelligent, splendidly acted and carefully crafted French crime flicks of the 70's. However, cataloguing it as just another 'crime flick' would be sacrilegious, as it has to offer much more to the patient viewer.
Claude Sautet, from what I have gathered, is known for his dealing with the bourgeoisie's turmoils, often depicting complex social dramas in his films. Prior to watching 'Max et les ferrailleurs', I had only seen another great film he made with Michel Piccoli - Les Choses de la Vie, which is indeed quite different from 'Max'. The subjects and genres might differ, yet Sautet ingeniously manages to create intriguing character studies (as both films have fascinating protagonists) and, while at that, to depict perplexing and powerful love stories, which help shape the protagonists' moral portraits.
I won't insist on the plot; suffice to say that the film does not get dull at any time and it also does not fall into a standard, clichéd policier. Max, the protagonist, could be compared to Melville's Le Samourai, insofar as both are cold, meticulous, obsessive and enigmatic. The baddies - the 'junkmen'- are also well individualized, and here I should point out the excellent scene where policeman Rosinsky talks about each of them. Last but not least, there's also the divine Romy Schneider: between us, I wasn't able to take my eyes off her whenever she was in front of the camera.
One more aspect that amazed me about the film was the fluent and elegant camera-work, which had an immense impact on creating the film's atmosphere. Although I'm not by any means technical literate, the composition of the shots struck me as carefully planned and the lightning was spot-on.
In a nutshell, 'Max et les ferrailleurs' is more than you'd be inclined to think: it's gritty and elegant at the same time, it's brutal and sensual, it's a thrilling crime movie and a complex character study, in short it is what a good film must be. Don't miss it!
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