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Friday, March 29, 2013

La Passante Du Sans Souci (1982)

A self made millionaire (Michel Piccoli) with a beautiful wife (Romy Schneider) is also the respected leader of an international organization for human rights (similar to Amnesty International). During an interview with the Paraguayan ambassador (Mathieu Carriere) regarding a political prisoner, he pulls out a gun and kills the ambassador. Once on trial, the events leading up to the murder which begins with his childhood in Nazi Germany unfolds. Based on the 1936 novel by Joseph Kessel (BELLE DE JOUR), director Jacques Rouffio's (he also co-wrote the script) film examines the correlation between Nazism in the 1930s and the rise of neo-Nazism in Europe in the late 70s. This is done by cutting back and forth between the modern day story and trial and 1930s events in Berlin and Paris and with Schneider playing two roles: Piccoli's wife in the contemporary segment and the woman who raised him in the 1930s story. It's a potent narrative to be sure but Rouffio bungles it with the extremities of his detail which seem over the top. This was Schneider's last film (she died a month after it opened and was nominated posthumously for a best actress Cesar award) and she doesn't look well. One can't be sure if it's simply aging or ill health. But her performance is very good. The subtle score is by Georges Delerue. With Maria Schell, Helmut Griem (CABARET), Gerard Klein, Dominique Labourier and as the young Piccoli, Wendelin Werner (whose only film this is, he went on to become a mathematical wizard).

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