Le Paltoquet

A singular virtue of the French cinema compared to our own is the use of well-known actors in low-budget, offbeat projects. Michel Deville’s very theatrical adaptation and direction of a whodunit novel by Franz-Rudolf Falk isn’t especially compelling as storytelling, but it allows one to see eight of the best movie actors in FranceFanny Ardant, Daniel Auteuil, Richard Bohringer, Philippe Leotard, Jeanne Moreau, Michel Piccoli, Claude Pieplu, and Jean Yanneacquitting themselves honorably; Ardant and Piccoli are particularly delightful. Better yet, it permits the neglected and prolific Deville to forge an interesting stylistic exercise in mise en scene, restricting most of the action to a cavernous bar resembling a warehouse. The dialogue bristles with breezy wordplay that is not easily translated (the title means the nonentity, and refers to Piccoli’s ambiguous role as bartender), but Deville’s ingenious use of ‘Scope framing in charting out the space keeps things lively, fluid, and unpredictable (1986). (JR)

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