Friday, October 21, 2011

Les Spécialistes

1985, France, directed by Patrice Leconte

The first big step away from the comedies, mostly derived from plays, that were Patrice Leconte's bread and butter for a decade, Les Spécialistes is a fairly straightforward buddy film, albeit on the kind of widescreen canvas that recalls many of France's biggest comedy hits of the 1960s, most obviously those pairing Louis de Funès and Bourvil. Though they are less comically inclined than such illustrious predecessors, Bernard Giraudeau and Gérard Lanvin make an engaging tandem, their onscreen banter surely a major reason for the film's huge success in 1985; indeed, Lanvin had two huge successes in a row with Marche à l'ombre, directed by and co-starring Michel Blanc, and then this film, but he never re-formed either working partnership.

There's a hint of Bertrand Blier in Les Spécialistes, too, especially in the film's concluding scenes, although there's nothing of Blier's provocative take on sexual politics, and little to foreshadow the richer work that Leconte did at the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s. Still, the pacing is brisk, the location work and stunts often excellent, and the central heist sequence convincingly constructed; in other words, the great majority of the film's original entertainment value has survived the intervening years intact.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States