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Le Petit Lieutenant (2005)

Art House & International movie directed by Xavier Beauvois

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A Deeply Touching View of Policemen

  • Apr 15, 2007
  • by
Rating:
+5
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 men and women who protect us.

Opening with well-staged Le Havre Police Academy graduation images Beauvois focuses on newly graduated Antoine Derouère (Jalil Lespert) as he says goodbye to his family and his wife Julie (Bérangère Allaux), a school teacher who pleads with Antoine not to leave Le Havre for Paris, the destination Antoine seeks to prove his desire for an active detective career. The kind but inexperienced Antoine takes up residence in Paris and is assigned to a homicide unit with equally inexperienced young men who learn the ropes of owning a gun, the embarrassment of performance problems at the shooting range, the awkward first 'arrests' and interrogations, and the endless hours of sitting at a desk waiting for activity. Newly assigned as the head of Antoine's unit is Commandant Caroline Vaudieu (the extraordinary actress Nathalie Baye) who has just come off a two year sabbatical to recover from alcoholism and the associated death of her son from meningitis. The manner in which these people bond is quiet and sensitive and when finally a case comes to their attention - a man found dead in the canal - the force joins begins what they all need to do: the killer must be found.

Clues are explored, people are traced, and Antoine and Vandieu form a particularly close bond, Antoine reminding Vandieu of the son she has lost and Vandieu providing the model for his career. Tension mounts as the criminals are pursued, coincidences occur and a tragedy cracks the bond of the group, affecting each member of the small force immeasurably. It is this very human happening and its effects that wind the movie down to moments of painful acceptance of the life of police people.

The entire cast is first rate and provides ensemble acting that is among the finest on screen. But the portrayal by Nathalie Baye is so multifaceted, embracing the inner trauma of personal losses not only of those she loves but also of her own sense of dignity as she faithfully attends AA meetings, that her performance is triumphant. Jalil Lespert also captures the fine line between innocence and experience that makes his portrait of a new detective not only completely credible but also one that leaves a mark on the heart. The direction and the cinematography by Caroline Champetier keep the film nearly monochromatic, the only color that is left to shock us for a brief moment is the red blood at moments of tension. And the lack of a musical score keeps the tone of the humanity of the film intact, never reducing it to a bombastic Hollywood chase and kill film. This is a little jewel of a film that deserves a very wide audience. Highly Recommended. In French, Polish, and Russian with English subtitles. Grady Harp, April 07

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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 . July 10, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
(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. …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Wiki

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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Details

Director: Xavier Beauvois
Genre: Foreign
DVD Release Date: April 10, 2007
Runtime: 110 minutes
Studio: Koch Lorber Films
First to Review
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