La machine (1977)

  |  Crime, Drama

La machine (1977) Poster

Pierre Lentier murders an 8-year-old in horrendous circumstances. This 30-something solitary factory worker who lives on the edge of society is sentenced to death. A damning indictment of ... See full summary »


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7 June 2016 | dbdumonteil
| Downfall of a grown up kid
Paul Vecchiali remains the most unsung of all French directors .His low budget works have never gained massive support from the crowds ;his commitment to his art is uncompromising and his approach is certainly too oblique to get commercial success.

"La machine " (forget the ludicrous alternate title :"En Route Vers La Mort" =bound for death;) is a subject André Cayatte ("Nous Sommes Tous Des Assassins" "Le Glaive Et La Balance" ),Claude Lelouch ("La vie,L'Amour ,La Mort") and José Giovanni ("Deux Hommes Dans la Ville" )had already treated .

Yet Vecchiali's and Cayatte 's techniques are diametrically opposite ;whereas the latter and his two mentioned colleagues opt for dramatization,investigations ,suspense ,in a nutshell show ,Vecchiali is closer to Robert Bresson ;and however ,his style is unusually inventive,different from everything in the French seventies,par excellence the years of the political movie.

There is politic in his movie,but it's only a side of a particularly rich work;death penalty and its necessity (or not?) were widely talked about then ;Some rare reviewers wrote that Vecchiali did not take sides ,but it is not true;his hero had extenuating circumstances ,and they are not passed over in silence: a father who beat his wife and tried to make a prostitute of her ,a mom that was so over possessive and in awe of her son she did not realize he was mentally ill.

The construction of the movie may disconcert many viewers: it begins with a questioning with someone filling in a form ;it's only twenty minutes later that the viewer realizes that it is actually a flashback (during the cast and credits ,it's quite puzzling); the hero is an uneducated worker (but rather clever,in his own way),a bachelor whose mom does the washing.Some clues are given to the viewer: he looks at the kids playing in the schoolyard ,he want to hear them sing ,and one day,in his car ,he asked a little girl :" do you want to help me find my poodle back?"

The girl is found later in a disused factory ;the director presents his audience with a fait accompli;he refuses any show.

The machine of the title may be the machinery of state , the press and the populace who demand the criminal's head ,these shrinks who study him and who do not even notice his most desperate sentences "I felt fine,that time" "alone, a family but no friends".

Vecchiali's treatment is mind-boggling :half of the movie is entirely made of TV reports ,of newspaper articles ;when the reconstruction of the crime takes place,it' the hero 's voice over which makes us attend the horrible crime.The principal ,Jean-Christophe Bouvet,completely unknown ,is fascinating: first straight-faced ,but later on, running the whole gamut, from a whisper to a scream ,from tears to bursts of laughter (sometimes not far from the final scenes of Anthony Perkins' in "psycho" and Edward Norton in "primal fear)

ALthough He's only got his "Certificat D'Etudes" (a grade school diploma which does not exist anymore) ,he knows he is a pedophile ,and he is aware that it's essentially because society did nothing to rectify the problems he had in his sad childhood ;"motiveless crime" says a leftist politician who wants to put the whole society on trial.The young man 's interpretations of the shrink's drawings shows he 's not fooled by their science ;he refuses his lawyer's useless plea (a magistrate who's merely a cog in this organization made for those with whom life has been kind to)and he defends himself ,signing his own death warrant .These final lines of the trial broach taboo subjects such as children's sexuality :'I'll be with her" (the little victim)

One can regret the guillotine scene ,which recalls more conventional cinema ,for it resembles that of Giovanni's "Deux Hommes Dans La Ville"

Vecchiali's movie won't let you unscathed ;it is much more than a strong "indicment of death penalty and the manipulative behavior the media";it mainly deals with things better left unsaid.

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Plot Summary


Crime | Drama


Release Date:

14 September 1977



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