Thursday, July 8, 2010

Alain Delon's Pour la peau d'un flic (For The Death of a Cop) (1981)

Alain Delon is Choucas, an ex-cop turned private investigator in Paris. One morning a new client, Isabelle Pigot (Annick Alane), seeks his services: her young-adult daughter, Marthe, has been missing for a month, and Isabelle believes the police are not working diligently. Marthe didn't leave on her own free will, believes Isabelle, as she had a good life with a stable position working at an institute for the blind. Marthe is also blind. Before Isabelle can write a check, Choucas gets a visit from Coccioli (Daniel Ceccaldi), a police inspector who tells Choucas just to take this lady's check and say that he cannot find Marthe. Subsequent to taking her check, Choucas gets another visitor, Pradier (Gérard Hérold) who tells Choucas that Marthe is with his friend and has gone to another country. Pradier isn't credible, and Choucas doesn't believe his story. Isabelle summons Choucas for a meeting at the open-air Trocadero plaza where she is killed. After a couple subsequent attempts on his own life, Delon's Choucas realizes that he is not working on a simple missing-person case in Alain Delon's directorial debut, Pour la peau d'un flic (For The Death of a Cop) (1981).By this point in his career, Delon was developing his own projects and he reunites with screenwriter, Christopher Frank (who penned the previous Parisian crime thriller with Delon, Three Men to Kill (3 hommes à abattre) the year before) for Pour la peau d'un flic. Interestingly, the film indirectly serves as a representative transitional film at the beginning of the decade. Delon is clearly the attraction in Pour la peau d'un flic, and his camera rarely leaves his character during its run time. While the film is clearly intended to be modern, Delon uses cinematically outdated investigation techniques (Choucas actually has to hit the streets and find clues; interview and interact with people; and speculate and take a chance on where to go next after finding a clue). Not only would the 1980s see technology become more focal in action cinema (bigger weapons with even bigger explosions), technology in cinema would become embraced by its investigators, forever changing their style and depiction. The classic and iconic actor imbues Pour la peau d'un flic with an old-school private-eye narrative, a classic and sometimes light comedic subplot, and action scenes, honed from repetition during the entire decade of the 1970s.
The simple missing-person case doesn't stay simple in Pour la peau d'un flic, as it grows much wider in scope, implicating a bigger conspiracy, only growing slightly incredulous at times. Delon's Choucas enlists his good friend, Haymann (Michel Auclair) to help him in the investigation when Choucas becomes a target himself. The two veteran French actors feel like close friends, and the intimacy the two share is genuine. The majority of their scenes are dialogue,as each bounces ideas and questions off the other as to how to proceed in the investigation. Then there are really clever scenes with the two, as when Choucas has a subdued suspect before him, he tells Haymann to get a hammer. Haymann just slightly nods, well-familiar as to what Choucas is going to do to the man. When Choucas has a gun pointed at him and looks as if his adversary has the upper hand, it is Haymann who pops in right on time in aiding Delon's character.The real attraction besides Delon, in my opinion, in Pour la peau d'un flic is the character Charlotte, Choucas's secretary, played by Anne Parillaud. About a decade later, she would blow cinema's door off the hinges in Luc Besson's nearly pitch-perfect La Femme Nikita (1990). Her screen presence is quite powerful, and one gets the impression while watching Pour la peau d'un flic that she is underused, despite appearing in nearly the entire picture. The romantic subplot involving Delon and Parillaud is well developed, as the events become more intense in the picture, the two begin to reveal their feelings for each other. A lot of the humor in the film comes from these scenes, and unfortunately her character's English-dubbing (of the version that I saw from an HK DVD) is terrible and most of it is lost. Delon adeptly knows how charismatic and beautiful the young actress is and doesn't spare her close-ups. Parillaud is a fantastic actress and she brings more energy to the film than the action scenes. The classic romantic comedy is dated, yet both Delon and Parillaud are able to carry it with their charisma and chemistry alone.I've seen seemingly a million crime films, and despite the familiarity of the narrative of Pour la peau d'un flic, I really cannot tire watching Delon acting super cool and taking on the bad guys. Even dubbed in English, when he makes smart-aleck remarks during a high-speed car chase, Delon is cool. When sitting in a cafe and having coffee and smoking Gitanes, Delon is cool. He's so cool that he cast this beautiful young actress in a small and welcomed part:Pour la peau d'un flic shows a lot of the magic of the waning days of this cinema. A must-see for Delon fans (and Parillaud fans and don't be surprised when it's her that stays with you after viewing).

4 comments:

Didier Vanheusden said...

I love this movie and i love Alain Delon, and it is quite (or should i say 'quiet') true what you write about Anne Parillaud, she does make a lasting impression here.
Oh, I really like your blog by the way. I've recently started my own blog on all things related to 'genre' cinema. I've also added yours to my favorite blogs. So, feel free to check it out... you'll find it here: http://shootfirstdielater.blogspot.com/

Hans A. said...

Thanks so much, Didier! I appreciate the compliments. Good to see more Delon (and Parillaud) love! By the way, I like the Di Leo reference in your blog title--very nice. I've added your blog to my blogroll and am looking forward to reading your reviews. Thanks again.

Didier Vanheusden said...

Thank you very much, i appreciate that! So far it has been mostly images on my blog but some in depth reviews are coming up soon...

Eric said...

As a long time fan of Alain Delon, I have been looking for his "80's" DVD's for some time. On Amazon.fr I found them in a 6 DVD box, but nowhere it is mentioned if these DVD's have (English) subtitles. Anyone here can tell me more about that? Thanks!

(http://www.amazon.fr/Alain-Delon-Borsalino-abattre-Paroles/dp/B001GKPWWO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1281864175&sr=1-2)