(Air Date: Week Of 02/12/97)
Thieves, or Les Voleurs, by director Andre Techine, once again does what French films do so well -- combine suspense with an all but clinical character analysis. In the opening scenes, we hear the cold-blooded interior monologue of a curiously jaded boy, about the recent murder of his father, Ivan, whose corpse is laid out in the living room.
His uncle, Alex, played by Daniel Auteuil, appears, and this annoys the kid, because he knows his father and his grandfather had a feud with this uncle, who, inexplicably has with him a farouche young woman, Juliette, played by Laurence Cote. The setting is the family home on an isolated snow-capped mountain in France, though a plane zooms overhead to remind you of contact with the outside world.
Cut to the outside world-- a police station in Paris. We've now in the months preceding the father's death. Juliette is dragged handcuffed into the station room, and the detective behind the desk is Alex, who is seeing her for the first time. She was caught shoplifting perfume, and shows no repentence. He lets her go any way.
Cut to a nightclub owned by Ivan. Alex comes in, and they have a snide conversation full of mutual distrust. We find out the father and grandfather are gangsters, the family business is crime, and the turncoat brother is the natural enemy. The detective is surprised when Juliette enters the club. Her brother Jimmy, played by Benoit Magimel, is also there -- he works for Ivan.
These sharply focused jigsaw pieces form the exposition of Thieves, which, in broad outline, is the story of an abortive robbery attempt, but it's also about relationships between the characters drawn into the web. Juliette and the detective begin a cold-blooded affair, described in this way by Alex: We felt only mutual contempt, which only increased our passion. Only in a French flic !!!
Cut to a college classroom where Marie, a Philosopher professor played by Catherine Deneuvre, is reading a cold-blooded philosophy text to her students. One is them is Juliette. Alex finds out that Juliette is also having a love affair with Marie, and this, too, only increases his passion. We see that Juliette's cold-blooded brother Jimmy probably reserves all his warmth for her. When Juliette disappears, Alex and Marie form an unlikely alliance, each looking to the other for news of her.
Yes, it's a puzzle, yes, it's emotionally stark, yes, it's riveting -- yes, take a shot at Thieves.
Copyright 1997 Mary Weems
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