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Le Petit Lieutenant (2005)

Art House & International movie directed by Xavier Beauvois

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'Le Petit' Noir

  • Jul 10, 2007
(3 1/2) While watching `Le Petit Lieutenant' I had to keep asking myself, `Why is this movie anything better than a US crime series?' Often watching foreign movies, I have to back up and say, 'How can I judge this movie?' After all, there is a temptation to give a French movie an unfair advantage or to demote its value based on American standard or yardstick. Either way is an insult to everyone. Comparing, `Le Petit Lieutenant' to `Law and Order,' a fine American crime series, yielded some results. While the developments and investigations in the movie remind one of any crime series, some elements definitely put this movie ahead. The authenticity of the characters seems even more vivid and real. Especially the dialogue reveals a good deal about the nature of France's police force and more than a self-examination of French culture.

The movie begins with the graduation of the titled character, Antoine Deroue're (Jalil Lespert) from the police academy. He's already an elite member of the force, a lieutenant, but still a new fish in the pond. He's left his school teacher wife behind in Le Havre to pursue his career in Paris. His new supervisor, Caroline Vaudieu (Nathalle Baye), is a sort of "super cop" from a "family of super cops". Newly reinstated, she is greeted enthusiastically as she returns after two years of complications only hinted at as a recovering alcoholic. His new division comes across with great authenticity. His initiation includes the escapades of his colleagues and their conversations are full of sentiments about their work, specifically, and about France in general. Included are unvarnished prejudices of foreigners; something that sets up the main plot well. In one conversation, one officer after a few beers offers eloquently: "Paris now sucks." In the discourse they decide the turning point was 1995. One of the brightest lights of the force is a colleague of Moroccan decent who shares that it took him years before he was accepted as one of group. During the engaging prologue, we see the run-of-the-mill development of Antoine develop until early on when he runs into a rare case of real import: A Polish man, seemingly homeless, is dragged up from the Seine River and revealed to have been cruelly murdered.

`Le Petit Lieutenant' works well because the dialogue is excellent, the action feels real, and the complications and setbacks develop naturally. In one of the scenes, I was truly moved by the unexpected. A development took a while for the characters to get over as well as for me as I watched. There is also effective humor. In one scene, Antoine and his supervisor are smoking marijuana in a park. A nightfly comes by to mooch a drag from their joint. Parting, he warns them, "Watch out. This place is crawling with cops."

In the end, that's how 'Le Petit Lieutenant' is distinctive. The details show some of the futility of a young, dedicated man in emotional times with absorbing characters and the repercussions of their lives.

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More Le Petit Lieutenant (2005) reviews
review by . May 06, 2011
A fine police procedural that, half-way through, delivers an unexpected emotional wallop
"There was the liver, the lungs, the heart, all set out on the table like a butcher's display box," says new police lieutenant Antoine Derouere (Jalil Lespert). "This'll sound stupid but I thought of Mozart. I thought, 'How can that stuff compose music like that?'"       In Le Petit Lieutenant, Derouere is newly graduated from the police academy in his home town of Le Havre. He gets his first choice of an assignment, a plain-clothes homicide …
review by . April 15, 2007
Director Xavier Beauvois, with the intelligent and sensitive script he co-wrote with Cédric Anger, Guillaume Bréaud and Jean-Eric Troubat, allows us, the viewers, to look inside the minds and lives of those people who commit to police work in a manner that pays homage to a maligned group and reinstates our visceral support to the spectrum of on the edge terror mixed with spaces of ennui that these people endure. LA PETIT LIEUTENANT is not a crime film: it is a deeply touching inside view of the …
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John L. Peterson ()
Ranked #100
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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About this movie


As long as there are cops and criminals, the police procedural will persist. The subgenre appeals to those who truly believe the devil is in the details. In his fourth feature, writer/director Xavier Beauvois may not reinvent the form, but he gets the details right. Though he hones in on one seemingly minor murder, Beauvois is mostly concerned with the plainclothes cops trying to solve it. As the story begins, Antoine (Jalil Lespert,Human Resources) has just been transferred from Normandy to Paris. He couldn't be happier, even if his wife prefers the country. Antoine loves her dearly, but he loves his job just as much. His co-workers include the Jane Tennison-like Inspector Vaudieu (César winner Nathalie Baye), veteran cop Mallet (Antoine Chappey), and Muslim cop Solo (Roschdy Zem). For the most part, they get along pretty well, especially Antoine and Vaudieu, who develops maternal feelings towards the rookie. By depicting theseflicsas fully-rounded individuals, then showing what happens when the worst possible scenario plays out, Beauvois generates an impact far greater than if he had presented them as stereotypical losers or superheroes. There's nothing trendy aboutLe Petit Lieutenant, nor is it an homage to the golden age of the procedural (Bullitt,The French Connection, etc.), but the filmmaker's attention to detail--the thrill of the chase vs. the drudgery of desk work--makesLe Petit Lieutenantthe best procedural in years. It accomplishes more in 101 ...
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Director: Xavier Beauvois
Genre: Foreign
DVD Release Date: April 10, 2007
Runtime: 110 minutes
Studio: Koch Lorber Films
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