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In the summer of 1944, small town French teenager Lucien (Pierre Blaise), attempts to join the French Resistance. His father is a prisoner in Germany and his mother dates her employer, who works for the German police. Lucien is turned down and, after a chance encounter, signs up (rather naively) as a collaborator for the Gestapo. Easily seduced by the power and apparent glamour of the position, he soon forgets his old life. The Gestapo also allows Lucien to give in to his most nihilistic desires. Lucien develops an overwrought relationship with a Jewish tailor (Holger Löwenadler) and falls in love with his beautiful daughter, France (Aurore Clément). He is then forced into questioning his true identity.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Superbly evocative of the period in both imagery and mood, Lacombe Lucien is a character study of a young man during a dark chapter in French history. The stories of French collaborators with the occupying Nazis are all complex, and this is no exception. Although Louis Malle and his co-writer Patrick Modiano take a non-judgemental approach, and the surface of the story is simple enough. It's the character study that offers the deepest insights as Lucien (Pierre Blaise) stumbles into his own dreadful fate.

The most impressive aspect of the film is Malle's ability to immerse us in Lucien's world - we understand his view, such as it is, and therefore we are destined to follow him emotionally. That is not to say we condone his actions and decisions; far from it. But with Blaise, a non-professional actor, developing a sullen, confused Lucien, we recognise that it is not evil but ignorance that leads him into the arms of the German police, where he signs up as a gun-packing young freelance.

The lovely Aurore Clément as France and Holger Löwenadler as her Jewish tailor father deliver sensitive performances, and the gradual changes in all of them are beautifully captured in a series of superbly shot scenes by Tonino Delli Colli. The screenplay is relatively sparse, and Malle concentrates our interest through images; he lets us observe with him, just how people manage their lives in such traumatic circumstances. His understatement enlarges our response.

Adding to the overall enjoyment of this fine piece of cinema is Django Reinhardt's musical stamp.

Published September 3, 2009

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(France, 1974)

CAST: Pierre Blaise, Aurore Clément, Holger Löwenadler, Therese Giehse, Stéphane Bouy, Loumi Iacobesco

PRODUCER: Louis Malle, Claude Nedjar

DIRECTOR: Louis Malle

SCRIPT: Louis Malle, Patrick Modiano


EDITOR: Suzanne Baron

MUSIC: Django Reinhardt


RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes


DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Aztec International

DVD RELEASE: July 2009 (re-release in 'Louis Malle: Youth & Conflict' 3-disc package.

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