Irrestisible charm and talent help Serge Alexandre alias Stavisky, small-time swindler, to make friends with even the most influential members of the French industrial and political elite during the early '30s. But nothing lasts forever and when his great scam involving hundreds millions of francs gets exposed, the result is an unprecedented scandal that almost caused a civil war.Written by
Dragan Antulov <email@example.com>
On February 7, 1934, the French Ministry of the Interior and the Paris Police Prefecture banned the showing of newsreel footage of the previous day's mêlée by right-wing royalists, war veterans and members of the anti-semitic, nationalist, anti-republican Action Francaise movement, who rioted to bring down the Daladier government over the Stavisky affair. The riots left 17 dead and 116 wounded. One Parisian cinema, Reginald Ford's Cineac Theatre, defied the censorship to show footage of the riots by the reactionary forces, which had been caught on-camera by French and foreign newsreel photographers. See more »
Not exactly emotionally engaging to the fullest, but I was always interested
This story of a conman is elevated by Resnais direction and the writing from the late Jorge Semprun. The narrative structure takes a couple minutes to get into, and I'm still not entirely sure what Trotsky (yes, the one and only) is doing in the plot entirely except as a backdrop of the period and how Stavisky, I think, ultimately ties in with him being deported from the country to get out of his already asylyumed state. But the two main characters here are Belmondo, super charming as always but here his bs-artiste type from Breathless is given more of a dose of reality and even psychological realism, and Stephen Sondheim's score, which comes in from time to time almost too insistently, like a melodramatic friend asking to amp up a walk down a hallway or a tracking shot (though, damn, don't those tracking shots get lovelier with Sondheim's strings and horns backing things up). We want to see where this guy will go and how far he can take his schemes because we know there is ruin lying ahead.
I think there was a point about midway through where I was getting somewhat restless, as to the thought 'Resnais and Semprun and company have shown us this character, his very sleazy yet undoubtedly charming way of being around people, but where will it go now, what will the movie do to keep things interesting'. And in its own way it becomes more interesting than just being a series of 'how will he get out of this' as it is 'it's time for the downfall, let's hear what his associates, doctor, lawyer, the love he didn't really have - that was the one thing in the film that, while nice and had certain, brief sensual mood, was underdeveloped - had to say ala Citizen Kane. And another fascination comes with bringing the theater itself into it. Stavisky/Alex could have made just a wonderful actor, maybe a protégé of Stanislavski, but he decided to take it into the real world as opposed to just the stage, where he could read lines next to other actors but not as confidently as in a fine suit and cigar giving our fake money.
Maybe that explains, in a metaphorical part, the Trotsky thing, since Stavisky himself was from Russia too: the best way to subvert Capitalism, perhaps, is to just make a mockery of it, f**k the system and get away with millions and millions, always with a smile and courtesy. It's a moody, entertaining ride, the French-socio-historical- political flip-side of something like The Sting, also from the same time.
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