two recent film versions of high profile French criminal investigations, justice
is eventually served, but at a terrible cost of human life. In both cases, the
guilty parties were apprehended, but the French police and legal system still
take an embarrassing PR hit. Political correctness and anti-Jewish biases
caused the police to tragically misjudge the kidnapping of Ilan Halimi
dramatized in 24 Days, whereas turf
consciousness and bureaucracy needlessly slowed down the hunt “Serial Killer 1
(SK1),” France’s first serial killer of the DNA era. Catching him is the hardest
part, but trying him also presents challenges in Frédéric Tellier’s SK1 (trailer here), which screens as
part of the 2015 Chicago French Film Festival at the Music Box Theatre.
Magne thinks he has made it when he is transferred to the anti-crime task force
at the storied 36 Quai des Orfèvres, but he immediately inherits a brutal
rape-and-murder case that has haunted his teammates. He immediately proves his
mettle by discovering a possible link to a similar cold case in Lyon, but all
the subsequent lines of inquiry fizzle out. Frustratingly, a sex murderer with
a not dissimilar M.O. starts stalking Paris a few years later, but they
happened during the watch of the glory-hungry, turf-conscious rival team
leader, who effectively freezes Magne’s squad out of the picture.
to Magne’s frustration, the parallels continue to mount, until the sheer volume
of murders forces the commissioner to mobilize the entire 36th
Precinct. In between the killings and bureaucratic skirmishes, SK1 flashes forward from the early 1990s
to 2001, when Guy Georges, the alleged “Beast of the Bastille” faces numerous
murder charges. Ordinarily, the split narrative would rather kill the suspense,
but Tellier and editor Mickael Dumontier cut to and fro at places that
strategically raise doubts and suspicions.
result is a pretty tight and realistic procedural that will have you pulling
your hair out in frustration over the kind of intelligence firewalls and rigid day-to-day
regulations that hampered the capture of their suspect. This is particularly true
with regards to DNA sample testing, because there were nearly no laws telling
the CYA-ers how to handle it before the SK1 Affair.
of like an epic Parisian Law & Order episode,
SK1 gives scant attention to the
private lives of its characters, aside from a bit of fretting from Magne’s wife.
It is just as well. Tellier and screenwriter David Oelhoffen (director of the loose
Camus adaptation, Far from Men) recreate
the decade spanning investigation with tick-tock precision. It is the sort of
film that resists showcasing anyone, but the often underwhelming Raphaël
Personnaz does career-best work as Magne. Oliver Gourmet also adds some rumpled
world-weary flavor as his early mentor, Bougon, while Adama Niane is suitably
fierce as the sociopathic Georges.
sort of legalistic roadblocks that hindered Magne’s efforts may be peculiarly
French, but they are not exclusively so. Regardless, they give the film a
distinctive edge. Tense and gritty, SK1 is
recommended for fans of true crime and policers, when it screens Friday (7/31)
and Saturday (8/1), as part of this year’s Chicago French Film Festival.
Labels: Chicago French Film Festival '15, French Cinema, Serial killer movies