With fine support from their colleagues, Daniel Auteuil and Catherine Deneuve perform with a riveting honesty that holds sentimentality at bay throughout this tough-minded movie.

LES VOLEURS

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Two hours of Catherine Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil is a no-lose situation under any circumstances. In "Les Voleurs," the pleasure of their company is heightened by director Andre Techine's tight hand with a fine cast and an intriguing set of relationships.

Alex (Daniel Auteuil), a very solemn cop, and his brother Ivan (Didier Bezace), an entrepreneurial thief, walk no common ground. Juliette (Laurence Cote) is a 26-year-old shoplifter who ends up in Alex's office and his bed, one of "an endless stream of identical losers" who pass through his dingy precinct.

At the same time, Juliette is having an affair with Marie (Catherine Deneuve), a distinguished philosophy professor whose dedication to her work is diminished by the problems of her young lover. Juliette goes from Alex's arms to Marie's with regularity and without joy, while Alex and Marie meet in common concern for their young lover.

There you have it: cop, thief, shoplifter, professor--meeting two by two in various stages of attraction and aloneness. They all seem emotionally unconnected and quite unfeeling, even when Alex's family gathers to mourn the death of one of their own.

The feeling of coldness that envelops this film comes from the state of detachment that is the operative mode for each of these people. We have little idea of their daily lives, even less of what drives them. We see only what happens when they meet. These are intricate relationships between brothers, between brother and sister, between a man and a woman who love the same woman.

"We were united by a feeling of mutual contempt, the outcome of which gave us intense pleasure," Alex says of his affair with Juliette. This is hardly a film about passion. Without the slightest hint of pleasure, Alex plays out his roles of son/brother/cop/lover while looking at his colleagues and his brother's friends as simply stupid. Everyone in this film is alone and lonely.

Juliette has still a third guardian angel in her brother Jimmy, a smart young man who earns a living as the general manager of Ivan's chop-shop operation. Actor Benoit Magimel makes Jimmy a fine study of a thief with decency, but without illusion.

In contrast to an American film that might take on the subject of a grand-scale heist, Ivan's band of thieves is all brains and competence, a group that delivers a cerebral mystery, a thriller without explosions. It is difficult to catch the flavor of a French movie about car theft, a love triangle among three lonely people, and a family mystery, but the elements add up to an impressive whole.

This is a tale told by its characters in one flat tone, a concept alien to our exuberant American sensibility. Because Andre Techine chose his actors with such care, his method works beautifully. With fine support from their colleagues, Daniel Auteuil and Catherine Deneuve perform with a riveting honesty that holds sentimentality at bay throughout this tough-minded movie.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 497
Studio : Sony Pictures
Rating :
Running Time: 1h56m


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