Tuesday, July 08, 2008

36 quai des Orfèvres

2004, France, directed by Olivier Marchal
It takes a certain degree of chutzpah to include a reference to one of the great French films of the 1940s, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Quai des Orfèvres, in the title of your film. It's especially unfortunate, then, that the connection is so tenuous: despite a fine cast (Daniel Auteuil and Gérard Depardieu are both excellent), the earlier film's concern with character subtleties is replaced here by an excess of overwrought plotting and an obsession with firearms (the DVD even includes an extra that details the selection of the film's various armaments, and they are many and various).

The entire enterprise has the feel of an American film; while Marchal may have had an earlier career in the police force, his film doesn't feel right, with his camera moving around to excess, and his use of music often proving overbearing (the film seems to be the subject of frequent comparisons with Michael Mann's Heat; in his weaker moments, Mann also tends to pump up the volume, and the gunplay, to the detriment of his stories).

There are several nicely choreographed sequences, most notably the film's opening, which intercuts a crime and a celebration, but the film rarely returns to such territory, instead running through an ever more convoluted set of narrative twists. It's a pity that an actual cop can't do more to convey an authentic sense of the French streets and precincts - Xavier Beauvois's recent Le Petit lieutenant somehow comes across as a more accurate glimpse into the world of the police.

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