30 March 2021

Louis Malle's Lacombe Lucien (1974)

Louis Malle's Lacombe Lucien, written by Malle and Patrick Modiano, was a great success, winning several prizes. However, due to the subject of the film – it was one of the first to deal with collaboration in France in World War II – it came in for some strong criticism, Malle left for the States and it was not until thirteen years later that he made another film in France, which was the one I recently mentioned here, Avoir les enfants (1987).

Lucien Lacombe (Pierre Blaise) is a seventeen-year-old peasant in mid-1944, when the Allies were gaining considerable ground in Normandy. Lacombe asks his teacher (Jean Bousquet), a member of the Resistance, if he'll let him join the maquis, but is told that he's too young. By chance, he's stopped by the police, denounces his teacher and becomes a member of the French Gestapo, meaning that he's working for the German police.

His problems start though when Albert Horn (Holger Löwenadler), a German Jew and a tailor, makes a suit for him: he falls in love with Albert's daughter France (Aurore Clément), who's a French Jew. Matters are complicated not just by the fact that Lacombe is in theory anti-Jewish but that he is culturally the reverse of the Horns. Albert is captured by the Germans, and, faced with the dilemma of France and her grandmother Bella (Therese Giehse) being captured, Lacombe kills the arresting German and drives them towards Spain. But the car breaks down and a note across the scene ends the film by saying that Lacombe was captured by the Resistance and executed after trial.

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