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Robert Enrico

Review: ‘Le Secret’

[Originally published in Movietone News 46, December 1975]

Le Secret bears a 1974 copyright and yet it seems much more dated than that. The films of Costa-Gavras notwithstanding, political paranoia thrillers feel so endemically American that this rather nondescript French movie comes across mostly as a by-the-numbers emulation of the U.S. model—just as contemporary French films noirs recall not such honorable homegrown predecessors as Carné–Prévert and Clouzot but rather the classic American noirs of the Forties and Fifties. This guy, Jean-Louis Trintignant, throttles a guard and escapes from this semi-medieval dungeon somewhere in the French night—a half-hour’s drive from Paris, as he and we learn. “They” had been slipping him the old Chinese water torture there, he tells a handily available ladyfriend of short-term acquaintance, because he accidentally learned a secret “they” can’t afford to have anyone know; and now “they,” of course, will be looking for him. OK. By means not narratively disclosed, Trintignant quits Paris and turns up in some woodsy terrain where he hopes to go to ground in a certain shed. Said shed having burned down—or so he is told by a jovial Philippe Noiret he encounters on a hillside—he accepts the shelter of Noiret’s own bucolic retreat for the night, and several ensuing days. The problem posed to Noiret and wife Marlène Jobert, as well as to the audience: is he a paranoiac or just someone who damn well is being persecuted? In either case, which way do they jump next?

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Review: The Old Gun

[Originally published in Movietone News 54, June 1977]

The Old Gun came to the Second Seattle International Film Festival with a host of French “Oscars” (Picture, Actor, Original Music Score) to recommend it. While Philippe Noiret was excellent (he doesn’t know how to be less than excellent, in supporting role or lead), the film itself tended to confirm that the same sorts of movies win foreign Best Picture awards that customarily take the prize in the States. The Old Gun is basically a lame excuse for a film with a Big Subject: war crimes and their devastating impact on the hearts and minds of decent individuals. Noiret plays a French physician who treats wounded Frenchmen and wounded Germans with equal diligence and compassion, sympathizes with but keeps clear of the Resistance, and mainly tries to do his job and look to the safety of his family, a wife and daughter. Most of the action takes place within hailing distance of 1944, when the Germans were hanging on to their occupied territory even though it was apparent to one and all that Allied victory was near. Noiret ships the family off to an out-of-the-way village where his tribe has maintained a château for centuries. Seeking to protect them at this critical period of the fighting, he inadvertently puts them right in the way of retreating troops desperate to make up in havoc what they cannot achieve as tactical victory; he arrives on the scene to find the village massacred, his daughter murdered, his wife reduced to a charred statue by flamethrower. The Germans, scarcely more than a patrol, are still in residence, and he sets about their methodical annihilation, making use of his familiarity with the château and its subterranean, intramural passages and an old hunting piece he recalls being stashed away in an attic.

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