Lacombe Lucien Reviews
The movie is tense and suspenseful precisely because it is always unclear what Lacombe will do next, even after he begins to realize that he is probably on the wrong side of the war.
One of the more disturbing aspects of the film is the apparent lack of rules about harming animals during the filming. There are some really gruesome dispatches of animals that reflect the time and culture and add to the character's cruelty and the bleakness of the film. This is not an enjoyable movie to watch but it is incredibly well done and its commentary about war and complicity will likely always be timely.
Lucien uses his new power like a little kid who's discovered a gun. He ruins the lives of a Jewish family because he wants to have sex with the daughter. The father (probably the only sympathetic character) knows he has no way out with Lucien as a Gestapo member but the daughter hardly cares. Even after her father is sent away (most likely to a death camp), she follows him into the wilderness like a Stockholm Syndrome patient. Fittingly, her name is France.
There are so many parts of the story that don't add up: why does the father march into the Gestapo headquarters risking his family's safety? Why does the maid stay with the Germans when she knows the war will end soon and what does she even see in Lucien? Is Lucien's mother just fine with her son turning her neighbors over the Germans? The ending goes absolutely nowhere.
I guess the intention in Lucien's character is that there's no motive, emotion, or remorse. He kills people like he kills rabbits. There's no difference for him. Perhaps that's supposed to make him frightening, but it doesn't, he just comes across and simplistic and boring. The Criterion pamphlet that came with this DVD explains that he's supposed to be an everyday, ordinary person, but Lucien isn't because there's not the audience can identify with. He's just a hollow person.
This is pretty unrelated, but the animal abuse in this movie is pretty terrible.
Louis Malle's Oscar-nominated WII feature clings on a well-balanced pace, concocts a carefully-conducted ideological wartime mind state from assorted kinds, mainly zooming in on the conflicting counterpoise between French-born Gestapos (there are scarcely any German has been mentioned in the film) and the fretful Jews in French. Also the resistance power as the third party has never been really put a sizable weight in the narrative line (not as in Jean-Pierre Melville's ARMY OF SHADOWS, 1969, 9/10).
The metaphor of the overpowering horror at then is constantly and insistently being dispersed by a motley slaying of various animals, killing birds, dead horse, hunting rabbits, catching a domestic hen and snapping its neck, even a dying dalmatian in the ominously poised supporting-characters-go-to-hell slaughter. All the shots emit a kind of unsettling cinematic impact on the viewers (animal lovers particularly), the message has been unmistakably transmitted, but still not recommendable.
First-timer and amateurish leading actor Pierre Blaise (who would unfortunately die in a car accident one year later) bears a tremendous balance of ennui and restlessness, an archetype of the rebellion youth, without any stage-fright to give away his newbie tag, his taciturn image can last for ever. Another great performance is from Holger Löwenadler, the Jewish father-in-law figure for Lucien, whose dignified integrity has to miserably yield to a adrenalin-driven adolescent's advance on his daughter, an exemplified cautionary tale of the misappropriation of weaponry and power. The daughter, Lucien's love interest, played by Aurore Clément, is a more opportunist symbol, oscillating between subservient lover and vengeful daughter. Among a handful of supporting roles, most of which are abruptly dissipating in the second half when the love-pursuit dominates the film, it could have been a potpourri of bountiful individual explorations, but Malle didn't opt for that way.
The bleak shots of the ghost town after curfew is an indelible testimony of the dreadful terror of the life during wartime, Malle's film outlandishly culminates in a 15 minutes bucolic spree with Lucien, the daughter and her grandmother (an almost wordless Therese Giehse, but exudes great force of hatred even for a dazed glance), living in his countryside house (bombed and deserted now), rendering the film its most telling salve to the young lost souls, one may get a belated palpitation towards our young protagonist out of detachment which for me is the pre-eminent sense through its 138 minutes running time.
According to Wikipedia, film critic for The New York Times Vincent Canby said that film center character, "must remain forever mysterious, forever beyond our sympathy". While there hardly could be any sympathy indeed, I don't see much of mystery in Lucien. Louis Malle showed us enough to see this undeveloped but sadistic character. He is not hopeless, he could become closer to norm, but on the other side, at this age person must already responsible for himself. Lucien Lacombe fails to be responsible.
A reviewer at IMDB said something about "innocence corrupted by war". Oh, no. It's not innocence, it's a brutal under-development. War didn't teach Lucien to kill birds. And I hope a reviewer would never encounter such "innocent" luciens on his way. I served in Russian army and I saw such characters...
Malle chooses to focus his attention on Lucien ,who when rejected by the resistance changes sides and informs and collaberates for the Vichy French Goverment.
Pierre Blaise plays Lucien as a somewhat stupid savage at the start to a rather more cunning and wily collaberator as the film progresses.
To this brew Malle adds a love story concerning Lucien and a local Jewish girl who is in hiding with her tailor father.
Lucien uses all his nastiness to grab hold of the girl and its only during the fianl moments of the film that he changes his roles and helps the girl to escape.
Malle has a great feel for the period and the film is better for containing largely unknown actors.
Another winner from the vastly underated Malle