Un flici continues the apparently well established tradition of utterly terible French films, from Vivre sa vie or Le salaire de la peur to Le clan de siciliens and onwards, into the boundless future. Did the French ever make any films worth watching, besides De Funes' absolutely exquisite set, Oscar, La Zizanie &c ?
Did they ? Really ? Name one.
Yet as terribly ill-considered, infantile bullshit as they might beii, they do have their redeeming sequences, their remarkable moments, fugitive yet undeniably present. In this film it's two things : for actual artistic value, Gaby's gaze. This is easily Valérie Wilson's best role, in her (short) career she's done no more and no better. She plays a transvestite police informant, secretly in love with her case handler / owner. She privately and unvoicedly counts having passed on useful intel as a great personal accomplishment, she institutes herself and her existence upon being useful to him, and she is hurt, so terribly, terribly hurt by his circumstance-driven disbelief. She just looks, she looks at him, and the slavegirl's shatter's screamingly evident in her eye. It's a thing, this, you know ? When a girl who makes a man her world ends up in a position where the good in her appears bad, and there's no recourse, and it's just...
The other thing is the historical value, also evident in other French films of the period. You see, a pedophile, a man who makes it a habit of fucking boys -- but only lower class boys, worthless boys of no political or social consequence -- has an interaction with the police, upon attempted theft. He's treated according to his station, whereby the following dialogue ensues :
Nous sommes des victimes designees, et nous avons a faire a de veritables professionnels. D'abord ils nous disent qu'ils ont l'age et puis... nous volle. Et allors seulement nous montre leurs cartes d'identite. Et naturelment nous pouvons pas porter plainte, comprenant le risque d'etre arretes et pursuivis pour l'incitation des mineurs a la debauche.
Qui est ce que nous appelons un delict d'habitude. C'est a dire que vous n'ait craindre que si vous etes recidiviste.
Nous le sommes tous.
Yet the distinguished gentleman stays distinguished, and the lowlife ass-in-trade stays in trade. The year is 1972, and the world is still, to some diminished degree but still functioning, because this is the only point that ultimately matters : the absolutely only reason a bureaucracy might be tolerated in this world is if it manages to maintain the distinguished gentleman's social priviledge at lower comparative cost. That's the necessary value proposition for a state to exist to any degree in the first place (and through its existence offer a safe heaven for all the ambitious but worthless nobodies making up "the machinery"). Absent delivery of that only relevant social good, there's no further need of it, at all, altogether. I don't mean something vague and lax, like "there's no further need of panda bears [but they may continue existing at their leisure and as best they manage]". I mean something quite strict and definitive, like "there's no further need of horse-drawn ploughs, hence you can't really find any", so kiss all those creature comforts you now enjoy one last hearty goodbye -- there's no "european commission" or "senate" or anything else in that vein keeping you in food and clothing if you don't deliver the only thing you're here to deliver.
Sadly there's well over an hour of spurious footage, spurious shit these minute-long vignettes have to sink-or-swim in. I suspect for most eyes that aren't nearly as fine as mine, they mostly sink. What can you do ?———
- 1972, by Jean-Pierre Melville, with Alain Delon, Valérie Wilson, Catherine Deneuve. [↩]
- The man drives. The other man picks up the phone, and hands it over. Why is the other man there at all ?
Does the hero actually do anything at any point ? He could be replaced by a piece of cardboard, hauled indifferently from place to place by the extras. Other people have plot tokens, but the French have token heroes instead!
On it goes, it's not really even worth making fun of, so badly contrived and out of the way broken it more closely resembles a direct serving of fridge logic spaghetti than anything cinematic. [↩]