The First Good News of the Fall

Just got a press release announcing the September 8 opening of Xavier Beauvois's Le Petit Lieutenant, which I saw during the Rendezvous with French Cinema series at the Walter Reade.

Back then, in very early March, I wrote this:

Beauvois is one of the darlings of Cahiers, which ain't a bad thing, but I must admit that this is my first exposure to him. It's not hard to figure out what attracts them to his work, the same thing I like about this police procedural is its dry, uninflected coolness. Jalil Despert plays the title role, a young Lt. fresh out of the national police academy who is assigned to the Homocide squad in Paris. Nathalie Baye, his immediate superior, is just returned to active duty after a long stint behind a desk resulting from a serious drinking problem. They begin working on a case involving the murder of a homeless Russian immigrant worker and . . . .

Sounds like an episode of Law and Order stretched to almost two hours, except that Beauvois uses his camera like a scalpel and the film is richer in texture than any TV show could be in one hour. (TV at its best works on the accumulation of detail over many episodes; texture is the result of such an accumulation.) Baye won a Cesar (the French equivalent of the Oscar) for her performance, which I thought rather ironic since the best thing about it is how unshowy it is; no American actor ever wins an Oscar for this kind of understatement. But she's terrific, as is the entire ensemble. This is another film I can't wait to see released here.

I still feel that way. When this opens on the 8th (or whenever, if you are not in NYC), by all means, go and see it.

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