Americans would consider it entrapment.
One unyielding Parisian Detective would say it is just “pas de
chance.” He is determined to catch his
man red-handed, so if he has to help matters along, then so be it. However, things do not go strictly according
to plan in Claude Sautet’s Max et les
starts its premiere American theatrical run this Friday in conjunction with the
Film Society of Lincoln Center’s The Things of Life: Claude Sautet retrospective.
has issues, but money is not one of them.
Like a French Milton Hardcastle, the well-heeled crusader was once a
judge, but became a cop after he was forced to free too many criminals on
technicalities. His obsession with iron-clad
proof stems from this experience. It has
not been working out well lately though.
This will indeed be bad luck for Abel Maresco, a petty lowlife and
onetime comrade-in-arms with Max, who has the misfortune of crossing the copper’s
is on the lowest rung of the criminal ladder.
He is a junkman, who literally lives of the metal and junked cars castoff
by serious crooks. Basically deciding he
looks guilty, the anti-hero plants the suggestion that it is time for Maresco
and his crew to pull a real job. To
nurture this seed, he starts visiting Maresco’s streetwalking girlfriend Lily,
in the guise of Felix, a neighborhood branch banker who regularly receives
large deposits from the wholesale meat market.
Ferrailleurs is a
fascinating film in Sautet’s canon, because it incorporates elements of both
his early noirs (like the briskly entertaining Dictator’s Guns) and his late period intimate character studies. Beginning in media res, and proceeding to
tour through the dodgy corners of Nantes, it observes most of the noir
conventions. Indeed, Max is certainly
one cold fish of an anti-hero. Yet, the
scenes of the emotional distant older man developing an ambiguous relationship
with a younger, more passionate woman prefigures several of his career defining
masterworks, such as Un Coeur en Hiver and
Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud.
it is downright bizarre it took so long for Ferrailleurs
to get a proper American release, given the combination of Sautet and its
stars, Michel Piccoli and Romy Schneider.
The title is an obvious suspect, usually translated as Max and the Junkmen, unfortunately
suggesting a Francophone Sanford &
Son. Nonetheless, it is anything
but. In fact, it represents one of
Schneider’s sultriest turns, giving her the opportunity to rock some Klute-like threads—again, all very noir worthy. She also plays off Piccoli’s ultra-reserved
protagonist quite effectively. His Max is a bit of a cipher, but he clearly
suggests a tightly wound man about to snap.
Though it ends in a rather shocking (but oddly
logical) place, Ferrailleurs is ultimately
quite satisfying. While its characters
are thoroughly compromised, it serves as a sharply delineated morality play,
featuring a funky soundtrack from the great Philippe Sarde. Must viewing for Schneider fans and Sautet
appreciators, Max et les Ferrailleurs opens
this Friday (8/10) at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, in tandem with the
FSLC’s continuing The Thing of Life:
Claude Sautet retrospective.
Labels: Claude Sautet, French Cinema, Michel Piccoli, Romy Schneider