12 May 2002 | dbdumonteil
Silent night,deadly night.
On a Christmas night, all doesn't seem to be calm and bright.An ex-convict ,Robert Herbin,(Robert Hossein) meets a beautiful Italian married woman Marthe Drévet ,who has got a lot of things to hide and it's the beginning of a film noir,with a lot of suspense and unexpected twists ,unfairly ignored nowadays.
The screenwriter was adapted from a Frederic Dard 's novel,famous in France for his "San Antonio " series -not for every taste-,but who also wrote murder mysteries as compelling as these of Boileau-Narcejac (les diaboliques,Vertigo)Robert Hossein had already adapted his "toi le venin" for the screen,and it seems that he is ,much more than Marcel Bluwal,essentially a TV director,the main auteur of the film.
The action takes place in an old house ,the first floor of which is a big workshop.A dark , threatening house,where a service elevator(monte-charge)leads to the flat.Marthe takes Robert to her home for a drink;he puts a small bird he bought on the Xmas tree,and they go for a stroll in the streets;when they come back,there's a dead body in the room(the hubby) and most extraordinary thing,the bird has disappeared.And that's only the beginning!The scenes outside the house show Clouzot's and Duvivier's influence,but also Dard's misanthropy:all through the streets,on that Xmas night,there's nothing really divine:except from the very beginning,when a gendarme buys a plane for his child,all we see is people arguing or fighting.And it's during the midnight mass,when a singer breaks into "minuit chrétiens" (o holy night),that the two heroes meet a despicable bourgeois(Maurice Biraud) puffed up with smugness and vulgarity.
A lot of surprises are in store for the audience and I wonder why they've never thought of a remake:the screenplay is strong enough to stand the test of time.The performances (Hossein,Biraud and Léa Massari) are first-rate.