193 Quai des Orfèvres

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193 Quai des Orfèvres

#1 Post by Martha » Sat Feb 12, 2005 9:38 pm

Quai des Orfèvres

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Blacklisted for his daring “anti-French” masterpiece Le corbeau, Henri-Georges Clouzot returned to cinema four years later with the 1947 crime-fiction adaptation Quai des Orfèvres. Set within the vibrant dance halls and crime corridors of 1940s Paris, Quai des Orfèvres follows ambitious performer Jenny Lamour (Suzy Delair), her covetous husband Maurice Martineau (Bernard Blier), and their devoted confidante Dora Monier (Simone Renant) as they attempt to cover one another’s tracks when a sexually orgreish high-society acquaintance is murdered. Enter Inspector Antoine (Louis Jouvet), whose seasoned instincts lead him down a circuitous path in this classic whodunit murder mystery.

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#2 Post by Matt » Sat Feb 12, 2005 9:38 pm

DVD Beaverreview (with screen caps)

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Re: 193 Quai des Orfèvres

#3 Post by maggie88 » Wed Apr 22, 2009 10:17 am

Does anyone have the definitive word on whether or not Quai des Orfevres is going to be re-released? It's still listed as "out of print" on The Criterion Collection website.

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Re: 193 Quai des Orfèvres

#4 Post by cdnchris » Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:27 pm

It's out (along with Le corbeau). Amazon and DVD Empire have them. Criterion hasn't updated their site yet. And before you or anyone else spams the other threads, the same goes for Port of Shadows and Variety Lights (which is also getting an Essential Art House release).

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Re: 193 Quai des Orfèvres

#5 Post by maggie88 » Fri Apr 24, 2009 1:51 pm

Thank you for this info. Very helpful. I was interested in the Clouzot titles and had seen them on Amazon, but I was just wondering if they were going to get an upgrade (features, transfer, etc.) of any kind with an official re-release.

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Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#6 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Nov 20, 2013 5:04 pm

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, JANUARY 13th AT 6:00 AM.

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#7 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Dec 23, 2013 6:08 am

Discussion is open!

I'm currently out of the country, so as with Miss Julie I won't have the opportunity to see the film and participate.

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#8 Post by Cold Bishop » Mon Dec 23, 2013 7:39 am

I really feel reluctant to discuss the film without giving it a proper rewatch, so I'll just say that I love, love, love the final scene (and final line) between Louis Jouvet and Simone Renant:
SpoilerShow
"When it comes to women, we'll never have a chance"
I'm not even sure I can articulate why. I just think it's one of the perfect moments in all of cinema, and a rare moment of genuine humanist (although still melancholy) warmth from a director usually considered an unforgiving misanthrope. How appropriate he could only generate that warmth for one of the film's losers (the line, after all, proves true).

Not a great contribution to the discussion, I admit, but something that stands being said.

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#9 Post by Lemmy Caution » Mon Dec 23, 2013 10:07 am

I'll have to unearth my disc from wherever it might be.
I remember being very taken with the setup and character intros.

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#10 Post by jindianajonz » Mon Dec 23, 2013 10:09 am

Put me in the "I'll rewatch it when I'm back home from Christmas travel next week" category

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#11 Post by domino harvey » Mon Dec 23, 2013 10:23 am

A good film I remember very little else about (though I do remember Criterion's packaging...)

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#12 Post by Cold Bishop » Mon Dec 23, 2013 8:10 pm

Another thing: while the holiday season is bound to slow down discussion, its worth reiterating that this film, appropriately enough, is a Christmas movie. If you're looking for an alternative holiday choice... :D

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#13 Post by Sloper » Tue Dec 24, 2013 7:44 pm

SPOILERS below, just in case anyone else is checking in here before watching the film...

This does seem an unusually kind film for Clouzot - all the characters are treated with unfailing generosity, except perhaps for Brignon and Paulo. I can't help thinking it was a deliberate effect to make them the only 'bad guys' here, given their respective roles in the narrative. Brignon is a scumbag, murdered by another scumbag, and these two are carefully separated from the rest of the characters - this one serious crime really has nothing to do with Jenny, Maurice or Dora.

The whole murder case ends up being a painful, extended blip in the lives of all concerned. It's even a little corny the way it ends up strengthening all of the central relationships: Jenny realises she shouldn't pursue her career at the cost of her marriage; Maurice realises he needs to trust his wife more; Jenny also realises that she should be nicer to Dora; Dora is able to express a little bit of her love for Jenny, and finds a sort of kindred spirit in Antoine; Antoine gets to be a good cop, help a few people out and show Jenny that his kind aren't all bad; and even Antoine's kid is sort of crowbarred in there (really could have done without this saccharine little blighter - a far cry from the children in Le corbeau and Les diaboliques!).

Was Clouzot trying to play nice? This was his first film coming out of what was supposed to be a four-year ban (for collaborating with the Nazis), and perhaps he thought it would be unwise to unleash another misanthropic wallow at this stage? Le corbeau, apparently, was used by the Nazis as anti-French propaganda, and perhaps Quai des Orfèvres was meant to compensate for that film by portraying an essentially healthy network of relationships. These people are troubled, flawed, they make all the wrong decisions - and yet they're basically decent and kind.

I do think it may be this factor that makes this the least good Clouzot I've seen, though it's still very good. He's often called the French Hitchcock, but I wonder if he had more in common with Lang? He's more interested in human beings and human emotions than Hitchcock, but shares Lang's wry, sardonic detachment from the subjects he observes in such forensic detail. Even in the light-hearted (and genuinely funny) The Murderer Lives at 21, there's a fundamental lack of warmth, a nonchalant attitude towards death, a sense that none of the little defeats and victories that make up our lives have any real importance in the grand scheme of things; a pervasive tone of 'who cares?'

In Quai des Orfèvres, Clouzot seems to be trying to convince us that he does care, deeply, but there's a lack of conviction here, and I can't help feeling that a sour tone and a bleaker ending would have worked much better for this material. That final moment between Antoine and Dora is quite touching, yes, but Dora's reaction doesn't suggest that she is deeply moved - she smirks with a kind of bitter but philosophical resignation, and the shot cuts slightly too soon...and then she's conspicuous by her absence in the film's ending. The love triangle between the sexy, ambitious Jenny, the poor balding schmuck Maurice (born to be cuckolded, you would think), and the calculating, repressed Dora is beautifully observed and played to perfection. Clouzot is really in his element with this stuff; he's never better than when watching a small handful of neurotic people interact. But then the warmth and generosity feel bolted on, almost as though the natural misanthropy of this tale was carefully written out of the script.

Or perhaps I'm just blinkered by Clouzot's reputation - and perhaps that reputation isn't wholly deserved?

Two final notes on two cast members: I love Pierre Larquey, who seems to have been one of Clouzot's favourite actors (Colin in Murderer, Vorzet in Le corbeau, and the taxi driver here); and I think I could watch Suzy Delair do pretty much anything all day long. Hmm - that sounded less creepy in my head. Anyway, she's just incredibly talented, charming and funny. Check out Murderer at 21 if you haven't already, as she and Pierre Fresnay are a total riot in that one.

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#14 Post by Drucker » Mon Dec 30, 2013 10:11 am

I can't believe now that I've re-watched this just how many details I missed during my first go-round with this film. I loved the stylization of the film early on. It almost seems like the early part of the film uses the stage as a metaphor. Everyone is performing. Scene changes are punctuated by set-changes, lights turning off, and even a light directly into the camera. I couldn't shake the feeling early on, either, that the set of the street where Maurice and Jenny live early on just looked so theatrical. This all sort of goes away it seems once the murder happens and the plot begins, but it's a nice little touch I enjoyed.

I have to agree with Sloper that this film is so kind. I'd also use the word charming. There is a pretty big divide for me between the amateurs (Jenny, Dora, Maurice, and perhaps even Paulo) and the professional cop and professional Brignon. Antoine is charming as well as he seems so disinterested early on. It's almost painful for him to go through the boring, same old, tired motions this police work (a critique of linear, standard police procedurals?)

The film really turns and hits the 3rd act for me in Jenny's dressing room (where Antoine is resistant to even turning around for her). At this point, we feel for everyone and the action really does get suspenseful. Early in the film Antoine makes a point along the lines of cops are good because they care for their clients even when they are dead, and at this point he sets out to prove it. That not all cops are bad guys. And when he has to realize that Jenny's coming from a real place, as well, I think he starts to see the good in others.

The film really does make you feel for everyone, but especially the cops. Antoine gets chastised by the magistrate at one point, and has to sneak back before his chief busts him. The cops are working on Christmas eve as one by one their co-workers are dropping out to go be with family. But Antoine can't even sneak away with his kid for two minutes.

But in the end, even the cop gets it right. It doesn't even seem like a silver lining happy ending-it's a genuinely happy ending. The film is enjoyable and really makes you feel for the characters and has just the right amount of suspense to keep you engaged.

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#15 Post by Lemmy Caution » Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:17 am

Thanks for the reminder.
I've gone on a re-watch spree during the holidays -- unusual , since I'm King of the Kevyips -- so I will immediately go and unearth my Jenny Lamour disc even before reading your post ...

Edit: Unbelievably I found it, largely by accident in about 2 minutes. Just took about 100 DVDs off the top of a large container, lifted the lid and by chance it was in the first 10 DVDs right at the top. Luckily I didn't bother to read the label until I put the lid back on, as I had scrawled "US" on the lid.

It's going on as soon as I finish the last 20 minutes of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Okay, this is a super-empty post, but at least bumps the thread again ...

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#16 Post by Lemmy Caution » Tue Dec 31, 2013 3:22 pm

Good posts.
I like the perverse idea of Clouzot using a police procedural as his idea of a Christmas film, with every one at the end getting a gift of wisdom and/or understanding. With a happy ending in front of a Christmas tree. Even though the police had to work all through the holiday, it ends with the inspector finally getting to spend time with the black Tiny Tim.

I was wondering why that kid was present, since most of what he does is act sleepy or cutely innocent. I guess it provides a lot of quick backstory and confirmation for the inspector's character/life. It humanizes the police inspector, and reinforces that he did indeed spend time in the colonies, and, significantly, does treat people equally. For me, the fact that he served overseas for 15 years equated to him as an oppressor and authority figure. But while WWII was the beginning of the end for the global colonial enterprise, I assume a French 1947 audience wouldn't have viewed it the way we do today. I assume spending a good chunk of time in the colonial service would make him seem a man of the world and probably a striver, someone trying to seize an opportunity. Anyone have any insight into how a French audience of the time would have perceived his colonial service?

I assume his having a black son would have been fairly surprising to see in a film from that era. In an odd way, it sort of links Inspector Antoine to Brignon, who uses his power, position and wealth to take advantage of young lower-status girls. Of course, we know nothing of Antoine's previous life, except that he has a child, but a relationship between a colonial serviceman and a woman from a poor, presumably African, country is almost by definition inherently unequal. And she would likely be a fair amount younger than Antoine as well.
Last edited by Lemmy Caution on Sat Jan 04, 2014 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#17 Post by Lemmy Caution » Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:00 am

Maybe we should extend the discussion on this film for an extra week, since the discussion time overlapped with the holidays and we only have three posts on the film thus far.

Terrific film, ladies and gentleman.
Certainly more to be said.
I didn't even get around to discussing the compositions and the opening scene.

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#18 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Jan 03, 2014 10:04 am

Lemmy Caution wrote:Maybe we should extend the discussion on this film for an extra week, since the discussion time overlapped with the holidays and we only have three posts on the film thus far.
I'll keep the thread open for another week, but I'm not altering the schedule. The Suitor will still open this Monday.

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#19 Post by Lemmy Caution » Sat Jan 04, 2014 9:42 am

Some other observations. It's a very talkative film, full of good dialogue. There's also some good humor, I like when Jenny says that Antoine doesn't look like a policeman -- for instance, he doesn't have a trench coat. It was stolen, he responds. And from the police station at that. Maybe he's just bantering with her. But it seems to confirm that his job is a wearying slog. It's also pretty amusing how the Inspector dictates Maurice's deposition in his own words, making everything seem tawdry and incriminating.

The characters are well-developed. I especially like how we think we have our three main characters, in an odd triangle of sorts: lively flirty bantering Jenny; morose, born-to-be-cuckolded Maurice (who looked a lot like Bob Newhart to me); and capable, repressed, masculine Dora. Then creepy hunchbacked Brignon enters as a minor figure and upsets the balance. But then well into the film, the main character -- Inspector Antoine -- enters and takes over in his avuncular steamroller manner. I liked the one or two times that Antoine thinks he has tripped up Maurice only to get a semi-reasonable answer that makes him fall back into uncertainty.

What's nice is how all these interesting characters, lively details and police procedural very effectively distract us from noticing how hokey and shopworn the basic plot is. A man is murdered, and four people had entered the room and were alone with him within a fairly short span of time.

It's interesting how entertainers and police are all held in fairly low esteem, not being fully respectable professions. Brignon who is in the movie business is a complete sleaze. We hear that Jenny got around a bit. I wasn't exactly sure what the butter was all about, but it seemed to be some minor black market dealings, by stagehands, due to war/post-war rationing. One of Brignon's girls, possibly working as an extra, is a known prostitute. Etc.
Throughout the film, a number of characters express dislike for the police.
Just an interesting contrast to today's value system.

Dora can't have what she wants (l'amour with Jenny), so she sublimates this into her work by taking risque photography. Interestingly, this somewhat equates her position with Brignon, who she does work for. And of course, Jenny is willing to play Brignon's game and thinks she can beat him at it (she does indeed beat him). And I've already noted a parallel with Antoine and Brignon. So maybe far from sweet and kind, Clouzot is saying there's a little Brignon in all of us. Except Maurice, who has a good deal of Paolo in him, planning out a cold-blooded murder (which he doesn't end up committing, mainly because Jenny and then Paolo took care of Brignon first).

Otherwise, I wouldn't read too much into Antoine's parting words to Dora, as it seems to be part of his m.o. to identify with others. Earlier he says that his background is much the same as Jenny's and that they are two of a kind. Maybe it's just a police technique, or possibly Antoine is always trying to fit in and belong -- being a policeman and having been away a long time making him very much an outsider ...

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#20 Post by Sloper » Sat Jan 04, 2014 10:55 am

Drucker wrote:There is a pretty big divide for me between the amateurs (Jenny, Dora, Maurice, and perhaps even Paulo) and the professional cop and professional Brignon.
That's a very interesting comment, and at first glance I agreed with you - but on reflection, I think the film goes out of its way to deflate the idea that Antoine is a consummate professional, and to place him on the same level as the people he's interrogating. The first film club discussion (on Le deuxième souffle) ended with an un-resolved discussion about whether Gu and Blot were really at the top of their respective games, or whether they were portrayed as kind of inept and washed up. I think in Orfèvres, Antoine is another Blot-type, in that he is partly a stereotypical professional cop and partly a stumbling, hapless loser - considerably more sentimentalised than Blot, or the equivalent figures elsewhere in Clouzot's own work (Fresnay in The Murderer Lives at 21, Vanel in Les diaboliques). But I think this film pictures the main characters as all being in the same boat, all semi-amateurs and semi-losers who somehow pull through.
Lemmy Caution wrote:Otherwise, I wouldn't read too much into Antoine's parting words to Dora, as it seems to be part of his m.o. to identify with others. Earlier he says that his background is much the same as Jenny's and that they are two of a kind. Maybe it's just a police technique, or possibly Antoine is always trying to fit in and belong -- being a policeman and having been away a long time making him very much an outsider ...
He's certainly a manipulative and exploitative figure in some ways, as you say in the rest of your post. This comes through especially in his bullying treatment of the taxi driver and in that crucial dressing room scene. But this is another case where the film could have gone down quite a cynical route and made Antoine a sort of chameleonic manipulator - yet instead, it chooses to soften him still further. I think his sympathy for Dora and Jenny is quite real, and that final line to Dora is his acknowledgement that he isn't simply an authoritative law-enforcer chasing down his prey - he's just a poor loser like anyone else. That line is also, more importantly, an expression of sympathy and understanding. He's saying that he knows what drives Dora's actions, and that he doesn't think any less of her for it. This seems relatively progressive for 1947, doesn't it? Anyway, I think it's the film's way of not just leaving Dora alone and unhappy, and of reassuring us that we're not the only ones who understand what she's been going through. It's not much, but still.
Lemmy Caution wrote:I like when Jenny says that Antoine doesn't look like a policeman -- for instance, he doesn't have a trench coat. It was stolen, he responds. And from the police station at that. Maybe he's just bantering with her. But it seems to confirm that his job is a wearying slog.
Isn't this a sly (and again rather sentimental) joke for our benefit? Remember the earlier scene where Antoine, in his cold little room, covers up the sleeping child with his trench coat: his colleague tells him to bring the coat with him, but its absence later on indicates that he chose to leave it behind. He doesn't look like a policeman; he chooses to care for his son rather than keep up appearances; and then the story he tells Jenny suggests that he can't prevent crime even in the police station; add to this his obvious rapport with criminals, referenced at several points in the film. He's not just 'crusty but benign', at times he seems barely to be a policeman at all.
Drucker wrote: It almost seems like the early part of the film uses the stage as a metaphor. Everyone is performing. Scene changes are punctuated by set-changes, lights turning off, and even a light directly into the camera. I couldn't shake the feeling early on, either, that the set of the street where Maurice and Jenny live early on just looked so theatrical. This all sort of goes away it seems once the murder happens and the plot begins, but it's a nice little touch I enjoyed.
Absolutely, theatre and performance are central to the whole film. I'm sure there's lots more to be said about this - not least about the theatre folk as a sort of alternative community of losers and outsiders. I also thought that Jenny's songs (not subtitled on the UK discs, wouldn't you know it) seemed to foreground her function as an object of desire, which is what she is for Maurice, Brignon and Dora, problematically in each case. She was Clouzot's girlfriend of course.

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#21 Post by Drucker » Sat Jan 04, 2014 4:04 pm

One of the things I wish I knew more about was Antonie's time in the colonies. Is there a back-story there? How did you all read it? While it really seems to be mentioned in passing a few times, Antonie's time in the colonies is not something we've touched upon but certainly seems like a vital character trait (and the more I think about it and read this thread, he certainly seems like the most interesting character in the film).

The sense of calling him washed up is certainly in the right league I'd say. His son seems to be a consequence of some sort, not something he planned to happen. He tells the character at the police station (a criminal) he could make a killing in the colonies. Good and bad, everything is better there, and he certainly seems to wish he could go back. So anyone else have any thoughts on this?

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Re: Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)

#22 Post by Emak-Bakia » Mon Jan 06, 2014 3:09 am

I finally had time to watch this (twice) in the past few days, and I enjoyed it immensely. There's definitely, a lot to talk about, but one of the things that intrigues me is the humanist tone that a few posters have already mentioned. My initial reaction to most of the main characters - Jenny, Maurice, and Antoine - was unfavorable. What's fascinating is the way that Clouzot manages to change the viewer’s perception of these three and to then bring all the characters together as “one big family” (as any of Maurice’s co-workers might say) in the end. Sure, it sounds corny, but Clouzot does this in a way that feels totally natural to me.

Jenny, of course, is a “go-getter” in the greediest way at the start of the film. "'The capitalist!' 'The big fortune.' You're jealous of the rich! Well, I want my share of their dough. I'm all for royalty," Jenny angrily says to Maurice early in the film, to which he replies by saying, "Your dad was a laborer." The film seems to be very concerned with politics and class, as labels such as "laborer" and "bourgeois" are thrown around repeatedly. In spite of Jenny's ugly obsession with accumulating wealth, as soon as Antoine begins to suspect her and Maurice of the murder, I can't help but root for her escape.

Maurice follows the same trajectory. For the first 30 minutes or so of the film - right up until the murder - I find Maurice to be a wholly unpleasant character consumed by jealousy. The moment he enters Brignon's house, however, it appears that Maurice's fate is sealed: he becomes the wrongfully accused, the victim of circumstance. (Jenny, too, becomes a victim in a way, because she did, after all, strike Brignon in self-defense.) Maurice's doomed future is visually represented as soon as he leaves Brignon's home to race back to the theater. His car is stolen, no taxis will stop for him, and he is repeatedly seen fighting against large crowds of people.

Unlike Jenny and Maurice, Antoine is not quite such a stereotype right from the start, as the viewer sees some good and bad in his first scene: he is a caring father and he's a cop, respectively. Lemmy noted above that "throughout the film, a number of characters express dislike for the police." Most memorable is Pierre Larquey's likeable cabby, with lines such as, "the less cops I see, the better I feel" and "gotta be careful with the police, right?" I'm fascinated with the way that Clouzot portrays police in this film, seemingly creating a dichotomy between laborers and police (and also between laborers and the bourgeois.) For instance, when Antoine says to Jenny, "Consider me a friend. We were made to get along," she responds with, "I doubt it. My dad was a laborer. He didn't like cops either," as if to suggest that it's impossible for laborers and police to ever get along. It's an extreme "us vs. them" way of looking at things that seems very unhumanistic.

I agree with Drucker when he says that Antoine is the most interesting character in the film (or at least the most complicated.) There is a goodness in him right from the start in the way he cares for his child, but it's as if that goodness is in spite of him being a cop. Antoine represents a threat to our protagonists, so it's hard to embrace his character for much of the film because of the fundamental reason of his role in society as a police inspector. Then there's the scene where Antoine underhandedly threatens to take away the friendly cabby's license - his livelihood - if he, the cabby, does not betray his basic principles and inform on Dora. (It's also worth noting that, in a show of solidarity with a fellow laborer, the cabby says, "my apologies, ma'am, but we can't beat 'em," as he looks Dora in the eyes and identifies her as his fare to Brignon's home the night of the murder.) The scene after that one portrays Antoine and the police in an even uglier light. An interrogator trips Paulo, Antoine says, "he's all yours," and the scene abruptly ends with the suggestion of police brutality.

And yet the film ends 20 minutes later with an unexpectedly friendlier portrait of Antoine. He knocks on Jenny and Maurice's door on Christmas day to return Jenny's fur, a symbol of bourgeois decadence, informs Maurice that he will need to see him at the station one last time for a statement, Antoine embraces his son and everyone, including Maurice and Jenny, laughs. Of course, the gentle horns and strings accompanying this scene largely account for the light tone of the closing (and allow me to point out that this film has several perfect pairings of sound and vision: mainly the fast paced music that plays in the background as Antoine reveals that Maurice is his top suspect and the church bells over the film's entire climax), but there is something more contributing to this shift in the viewer's perception of Antoine's character: he's no longer a threat to the protagonists. The moment the real murderer is caught and Antoine is not trying to put Jenny or Maurice under a guillotine, there is an incredible release of tension. I mentioned earlier that there seems to be an unhumanistic laborer vs. police attitude permeating much of the film. In the end, however, Jenny and Maurice and Antoine, in a tiny moment when they're just people watching a child play in the snow - not laborers and policemen - they share a laugh. For a moment, they're "one big family." I can't argue with anyone who calls it corny, but I think it's a well-earned, genuinely humanistic moment. And on Christmas, no less!

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