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  • 26 years later, the movie still has a cult on its own in France (and maybe in some other countries, I'm not aware of that).

    Of course the fact that Coluche, a famous french comedy and stand-up artist, died too soon at 42 (in 1986, 3 years after the movie was released) is no stranger to that... not to mention it was his very first (and last) dark role - a deadbeat gas station employee in Paris seeking revenge -and somewhat redemption- by hunting down the killers who murdered his only friend, a young lowlife drug dealer.

    Some lazy critics here and there mentioned there was some kind of Melville, Cassavetes and Scorsese influences in the movie but to me, they couldn't be more wrong. Take a close look at it and you won't find any trace of "Taxi Driver" or "Gloria" in it, despite Claude Berri, the director, has tried so hard to put some of these influences in his film.

    It's basically a classic urban drama in 2 distinct parts (the "bound of trust / friendship" part 1 and the "hunt/revenge/redemption" part 2, seen in many movies before and after this one) but the tremendous ghost-like interpretation of Coluche (who was facing drug addiction and sentimental issues at the time) and the extraordinary master work of D.P. Bruno Nuytten took it all to rocket the movie to critic and commercial success.

    Even if a few script holes might bother some viewers (especially a detective character -called Bauer- who seems to appear/disappear only to provide informations) the wandering of these shadow-like characters won't be forgotten for a long time… and the very ending could ruin your day. Or even your week.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Director Claude Berri was often criticized for having tried this "film noir". However, I am not sure if "Tchao Pantin" is a proper film noir. After all, I wonder if this misunderstanding is the reason, why this movie is rated only by a few hundreds of people, and, most of all, why it is still not available on international DVD. The latter is the more astonishing, since Coluche has in French almost the status of a saint. But it is even worse: In the U.S., there is actually not one Coluche-movie available on DVD, although he acted at the side of Louis de Funes, Isabelle Huppert and other international stars. Coluche definitely needs to be reborn for the international audiences; he was a truly unique clown, comedian, actor and an outstanding human being, who is revered for good reason in France.

    People who know about Coluche's short life may wonder if he is really acting in this movie, or if he did not rather bring a good part of his personality into "Tchao Pantin". Yet, however it may be, two more reasons did not make it easier for this wonderful and sublime movie to make its way around the world. First, the title which is not translated in English, because it is not translatable. A "pantin" is a jumping Jack, and most people do not understand, why Coluche is a jumping Jack. Consequently, the title has been newly invented in many foreign versions. For example, in German, it is called "Am Rande der Nacht" ("At the edge of the night") and thus settled into a borderline region which has many times proved to be a reservoir of imagination in literature as well as in film. Second, from the assumption that this is a film noir one would interpret what Lambert-Coluche is doing in this movie as a series of revenge. Is it really so? In order not to spoil the movie, let me just say that Lambert realizes, after having killed the murderer of Bensoussan, that behind the small fishes there are bigger fishes. Consistently, Lambert then goes after the bigger ones, until he reaches the point where he finds himself trapped in the net of these fishes. However, Lambert does not seek for simple revenge. He is obsessed by the idea that he can exterminate evil by consistently going to the end. Charles Sanders Peirce wrote: "He who would not sacrifice his own soul to save the whole world, is, as it seems to me, illogical in all his inferences, collectively. Logic is rooted in the social principle". Lambert is consistent, no doubt, and I am convinced that this movie substitutes ethics by logic. However, there are the paradoxes that arise from logic proper, and in the end the killer gets killed. Does "Tchao Pantin" mean that in society somebody who strictly follows logic is a jumping Jack?
  • Classic dark French psych thriller featuring Coluche, better known for his stand up comedy dressed in blue and white striped dungarees - Andy Pandy style. His acting as the sad middle aged loser Lambert should have earned him an Oscar.

    Having lived in the area where the film is set, (and worked in an auto repair shop)the atmosphere and the photography are spot on. Very sad, complex and entertaining.

    If you like this, watch Subway and Diva. The title derives from the area where the film is set - Pantin, a working class quarter in North Paris, and should be with first letter in caps.
  • inceptionmind21 November 2001
    "Tchao Pantin" is a great movie. Its characters are all down to earth and have real feelings. Lambert, the burn-out alcoholic who works at the gas station befriends Bensoussan, a small-time pusher. The story goes on about their friendship, but breaks off into a new level when Bensoussan is killed. Lambert's not sure to risk his life and avenge him, but the perseverance of Bensoussan's latest girlfriend, Lola, convinces him. Even though the movie might run a little slow at times, it nevertheless exceeds in giving off exciting vibes (action and great dialogue). It's an interesting movie about a somewhat awkward relationship, but it works. It's the best thing about it. Side note, I'm just a little confused about the title and what it stands for. Anyway, you should really check it out, and you might even see an adaptation of it in a few years.
  • stuka2410 September 2009
    Sometimes, the "magic" of cinema seems to take hold of us.

    The two main characters are superb. So is cinematography. Everything is "in the dark, humid, without hope". Lanky Lola (1.78 m), while providing the inevitable love interest, is quite gelid and stolid, so her beauty (rain scene!, she awakening chez Lambert!) is not overtly "too much".

    Bensoussan is a stupid kid, while Lambert... what a script! This should be required viewing for budding plot writers. He speaks seldomly, bluntly, seemingly without passion, world wearily, like a philosopher who decided to toss the world aside, as "a useless hypothesis". Gradually we get to know his intentions, which are not clear from the beginning (he's a master at deception :)!), but make sense afterwards. Unlike many Hollywood commercial thrillers, that try to be witty and only end up being preposterous. Or "revenge" films alla Stallone and Bronson, without any emotion because there's nothing to "balance" the killing spree.

    This is a "cartesian" movie. "Clear and disc tint" ideas. If issued by a "gas station clerk", well, that's the master's disguise!

    The Paris we witness is not the postcard's or Bardot's: everything is seedy, "the system" is rotten, like the copper Bauer's synthesis near the end: "There'll always be another one".

    The ending is fine! Seldomly had I thought: "this should end right here", and it did.

    IMDb reviewers agree on Bruno Nuytten (DP)'s work. Luckily enough, I hadn't read those reviews, and while watching even the first minutes I said: "what a good 'atmosphere'". That's a good work: noticeable even without "knowing it's something important".

    Berri doing this shows a hidden potential. Pity he didn't do more of the genre! Maybe he "needed" all this "sun drenched Southern France" to make one "night" film...

    I agree with IMDb reviewers like gregory-joulin about its two-part structure, and with Bob Taylor that probably the first part is the best. But I admit it: I felt more with the second. "Plot holes"? Many. But who won't remember the "murder by the small filling station" or the way he swiftly avoids Bauer's questioning. Unassuming, without hesitating, thus lethally. Just like what follows suit...

    I liked his "method of interrogation": breaking the mobster's motorbike (not the man). And the way he answers to Bauer on why he was't working: (seeming concerned) "With all that happened, I had to take a few days off".

    (About this film) Lambert would just quip: "Watch it".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Lambert is alone. He drinks every night, working at a gas station by night, barely speaking to anybody. One night, Bensoussan, a young dealer, half-Jew, half-Arab, runs into his life. In spite of Lambert's drug hatred, a kind of friendly bond begins between them, even a father-son like relationship. But although we learn more and more about Bensoussan, we still have no clue about Lambert... Soon, Bensoussan's drugs are stolen. As he can't refund his boss Rachid, he's killed by Rachid's henchmen in front of Lambert's. Then, Lambert changes in front of us. While he's on the trail of Benoussan's murderers, killing every one of them, we finally know who he is...err, who he was. But this revenge will be both his own redemption and his fate...

    The title may be odd : "Tchao" is a mispronunciations of "ciao". "Pantin" means both "Dummy", "Idiot", but Pantin is a small Paris' north suburb town too. Anyway, even French people can't explain the real meaning of the title... I'm writing this as the movie is played on M6... Coluche died 20 years ago and for us, it seems like it was yesterday. We will always see him as a clown, as a nice funny guy, but "Tchao Pantin" is here to remind us that he was an actor, a real great one. Anyway, you can't be disappointed with that film : the storyline isn't very original (revenge), but the characters are so touching and pathetic that they made the movie one of the best French movies of the 80's. Sad but excellent.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Little known outside France but beloved in it Coluche, like Bourvil (of whom the same may be said) excelled at comedy but was more than competent at drama as he demonstrates here. Those who know Claude Berri mostly and/or if only for his international successes Jean de Florette and Manon des Source will perhaps be surprised at the radical change of milieu, from the sunny, well-lit and wide-open spaces of southern France to the dark, murky narrow enclosed world of demi-monde Paris small-time drug-dealers. Coluche is Lambert-no-last-name who is measuring out his life in the litres of gas he pumps as night man at a small filling station; one night a young man of mixed blood, some of it Arab, wanders in to avoid the police - he has an endearing habit of stealing mopeds and motorbikes - and an unlikely bond is slowly forged between the two, easier to understand later with the disclosure that Lambert is an ex-cop whose teenage son died of an overdose. The kid (Richard Anconia) falls foul of his own dealer and gets it where the chicken got the axe and Lambert is moved to avenge him and is himself killed for his pains. Slow to gain momentum it slowly tightens its grip on the viewer and is well worth a look.
  • Warning: Spoilers

    Good film by Claude Berri. Lambert (Coluche) is working night-shift at the gas station. He gets to know Bensoussan (Richard Anconina), an Arab kid making money stealing motorbikes and selling them back. A strange bond develop between the two, and when Bensoussan is killed in front of Lambert, the ex-cop will turn vengeful. Cause we learn that the same thing happened to his son. And there's some clues at the end that the cycle of violence will continue, when Lola (Agnès Soral) shoots at the guys that just killed Lambert. There's no happy ending in this one. Definitely not a cheer up movie.

    Coluche is great. A lot of character in his face. We care for him, as for Bensoussan and Lola. Great lines too. Coluche says to Bensoussan when he learn the kid's a drug dealer: "Prends bien le temps de mourir" - "Take your time to die".

    Out of 100, I give it 78. That's good for **½ out of ****.

    Seen at home, in Toronto, on November 20th, 2002.
  • Claude Berri is one of the great artists of family life in French cinema. I have enjoyed so many of his films about youth, courtship, marriage and fatherhood: Mazel Tov, Le cinéma de Papa, La première fois, Un moment d'égarement. The first half of Tchao Pantin works well in this framework, but the second half is just a routine revenge story.

    I didn't really respond to the alcohol-blunted efforts of Coluche to rally himself to avenge the killing of Richard Anconina, nor did Agnès Soral's emotional about-face--deciding to help Coluche find the killer--seem believable. This actress has a very inexpressive face, and body to match. A tribute to Bruno Nuytten's wonderful cinematography is in order: there really is nobody like him for rainy night scenes. I'll give 10-10 for Coluche and Anconina, and zero for the rest.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In mid-2016 a friend invited me to check a box of DVDs he had purchased at the market.The first cover to catch my attention was a cool-looking French Neo-Noir that I've never heard of before. Rushing to check the movie, I was disappointed to find no English Subs on the disc,and little sign of the film online. Continuing to try and find a version with subtitles for over a year,I was happily caught by surprise,when a fellow poster on the Fistful of Leone directed me to the place where I could at last say, so long.

    View on the film:

    Fuelling up in early 80's France, co-writer/(with Alain Page) director Claude Berri & cinematographer Bruno Nuytten pull Neo-Noir atmosphere through a Cinéma Du Look (CDL) filter of dusty neon blue igniting Bensoussan's moped ride along the underbelly of the city. Dragged away from his dead-end job by Bensoussan,Berri makes Lambert's confrontations with local gangsters crackle with short, blunt force Noir violence, spiked by the ruby red lights of Lola's Punk culture rumbling into their lives.

    Adapting Page's own novel,the screenplay by Page and Berri brilliantly scrambles Neo-Noir grit to the stylisation of CDL, via the Film Noir loner getting converted to the trio (and in Lola and Bensoussan cases: youthful rebels) being outcast of society,each stuck in a wilderness they can't escape, ruled with an iron fist by separate from each of them, the writers brilliantly make Lambert become the centre of the group by his tough-nosed actions being driven by a desire to keep Lola and Bensoussan safe,which shatters in a freeze-frame final.

    Stomping into their lives,Agnès Soral gives a whirlwind performance as Lola-at first powered by Soral with a Punk thump against any attempts made to bond with her, which Soral curls into compassion as she learns of Lambert's past. Bringing the trouble to town,Richard Anconina gives an infectious performance as Bensoussan,which sparkles even as he gets in too deep. Famed as a stand-up comedian, Coluche (who died age 41 from a motorbike accident in 1986) gives an amazing performance in his first "serious" role as Lambert,thanks to Coluche capturing how the outsider status has worn Lambert down, until the crossing of tracks with Lola and Bensoussan has Coluche crunch down on Lambert with a determination to say, so long.
  • Coluche's acting in "Tchao Pantin", or "So Long, Stooge" was so pivotal in the film's success that the title became a well-known trope defining a comedian's dramatic breakthrough. Coluche became an actor's school-case firmly establishing what his stand-up routines made attentive eyes suspect: he was more than a clown. And as pump attendant Lambert, he let his proletarian roots and street-smart humanity operate as naturally and poignantly as if he'd played these roles for twenty years. He was only 39 but could look ten years older with these eyes that always seem at loss and a heart that whatever used to drive it probably stopped to exist. What an irony for a man who literally 'fuel' people to be trapped in such a desperately static life.

    Lambert is a total mystery but not in the way 'mystery' can be used to trick viewers, the directing of Claude Berri doesn't care for effects or twists, that's why saying the revelations that come near the end were predictable is missing the film's point. The story couldn't have been more linear and straightforward; whether it's a deliberate stylistic approach or not, Berri cares more for his characters who have all in common a sort of entrapment in a condition whose gravity isn't valued until violence raises its ugly head. It's a bit like staggering down the same disreputable and dangerous street every night to go home knowing that one night, you'll have pushed your luck one time too many. Nothing can come good from these dark and deserted streets sublimated by Bruno Nyutten's cinematography, as inky and shadowy as Gordon Willis' closed-doors shot in "The Godfather".

    Indeed, in this masterpiece of sobriety, it's literally to the French hearts of darkness that we're plunged, in a journey that never surrenders to cheap emotions, you'll never see a tear running on Coluche's cheek or his brief friendship with Bensoussan starting with predictable antagonism, sometimes the best about human relationships is as hazardous as casual as the worst and maybe this is where the poignancy lies. Many things happen but we never take then for bad luck, they seem to be dictated by a Karma, a sort of immanent presence that decided the likes of Bensoussan, a small-time drug-trafficker, are the kind of natural outcasts who won't find their place no matter how hard they try. As the half-Arab, half-Jewish thug, Anconina gives one of his greatest performances, he's a man lacking the social skills because he obviously lacked something in his life, whatever it was, he found a parcel of it in Lambert's empathy.

    Their interaction builds the whole first act and the dialogue is powerful without trying, when they talk, you can hear the hidden messages, the performances make you grasp the unspoken truths about their lives and it's so subtly done that you know the journey won't end with a happy ending. The rest of the cast involves a worn-down cop played by droopy-eyed Philippe Léotard and a punk prostitute played by Agnes Soral, needless to say that these characters aren't archetypes in the strictest sense of the word. Bensoussan sees Lola as the pretty blonde and the perfect trophy girlfriend, to bang and brag about it the day after, while Bauer first strikes as a little pebble in the shoe until he reveals, like Lola, more complexity. Society makes archetypes, not movies, and this is what "So Long, Stooge" is about, going into the depths of natural misfits in the crisis-stricken France of the early 80's.

    Because "So Long, Stooge" is also a powerful time capsule of the dark and shady France, sung by Renaud or drawn by comic-book artist Frank Margerin, it's a universe made of black leather jackets, motorbikes and guns, without the romantic and rebellious spirit of the 50's, more of the disillusioned post-Oil crisis days we'd find in Kassovitz "Hatred". But even as a product of its era, the film resists the test of time because it's a vivid, lucid and poignant friendship story and an unforgettable descent into the soul of a man whose greatest revelation doesn't involve his past, but just the fact that, despite the shocking factor, he's just a nice guy. To a certain degree, Lambert is perhaps the closest French character to Travis Bickle and he's certainly not a pale copy, Coluche would win the French Oscar for his performance.

    Sadly enough, he wouldn't have time to prove his value again as he'd die in a tragic motorbike accident in 1986, giving an eerie dimension to one of the most tragic moments in the film. Coluche like Bourvil didn't have time to be a late bloomer on the field of drama and left one of the most memorable performances of French cinema. And yes, it was so good "Tchao Pantin" isn't just used to describe the turning point of comedians but also their Holy Grail, their hidden desperation to be taken seriously at least once, Jean Dujardin, José Garcia or Franck Dubosc all wait for their "Tchao Pantin". Well, in 1983, Yannick Noah was the last French tennis player to win Roland Garros and Coluche the last comedian to have transitioned successfully to drama. Maybe today's cinema tends to overplay emotion, to emphasize the sleaziest aspects of the story such as gore and sex, while "So Long, Stooge" has its share of graphic moments, it's only in the peaceful and serene moments that we can measure what a tragic loss for cinema Coluche was.

    And you can see in "So Long, Stooge" a rebirth of a grittier and more realistic form of filmmaking that had also one merit, to take Franch cinema out of that 'New Wave' rut and start to reflect its time and tell compelling stories that don't just rely on existential torments, but on actions, too, paving the way to the new generation: from Luc Besson to jean-Jacques Beineix. Definitely one of French cinema's most relevant movies.
  • dromasca15 May 2017
    Warning: Spoilers
    Thanks to ARTE TV I could see now Claude Berri's 'film noir' Tchao Pantin (or So Long, Stooge in its English version) starring Coluche in the lead role. The film was made in 1983, at a time when I was busy with changing the course of my life, and no wonder I missed it. It represents a milestone in the career of both Claude Berry who after this film took a three years break in order to create his two best known films - Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring - very different in subject and style, and also in the career of Coluche who assumes here a more 'classical' and fully dramatic role which could have been a changing point in his career. One year later however, Coluche will die in a motorcycle accident, and this film includes involuntarily kind of a premonitory coincidence as motorcycles and death play a key role in it.

    The story is quite a typical 'film noir' intrigue, with the key characters - a drunkard gas petrol pump seller who hides secrets of a previous tragic life and a loser type of small drug dealer of Moroccan origin who hides his own secrets among which a shelve full of books he claims to have read all, are getting together in a world were there is not much to attach to but maybe a peer similarly broken soul. There is also a girl in the film, a punk girl (we are in the early 80s, remember) but her role will become more clear only in the second part, after the younger character is murdered and the quiet and withdrawn older man engages on the path of finding the killers and revenging his friends. Typical intrigue, as I said, which has little chances to end otherwise than it ends.

    As a reader of the 'serie noir' books since childhood I cannot avoid falling under the charm of such stories, especially when they take place in Paris, here a Paris of decrepit houses, or messy small flats, of dangerous streets and dubious bars where everything is trafficked. I was not that surprised to find out that the cinematography belongs to Bruno Nuytten the director of Camille Claudel which I have also seen and written about recently, a film that had an amazing cinematographic look. Coluche seems in this film like having taken inspiration from other Big Silent tough guys in the history of the French cinema, his role could have been played in other times and other periods of their respective careers by screen monsters like Michel Simon or Jean Gabin. I liked the performance of Agnès Soral as the young punk girl whose profile and appearance seems to announce a quarter a century early the character of Lisbeth Salander in the Scandinavian 'Millennium' saga. While the story has been played too many times before and after this film to surprise anybody nowadays, there are many good reasons to watch or watch again this movie.
  • a film noir. it is the most easy definition for a film who escapes to a clear verdict. because it is one of the films who, after the final credits, becomes a state of emotions. sure, the great merit has Coluche. but he is part of an impeccable story, simple, honest, touching, bitter, about friendship and errors of past, appearances and love, justice and purpose of a broken life. a film like a confession. about yourself and about the others. and about the need to escape from yourself doing the right things in the right manner. a story who becomes a state of soul. this is the most important thing for this film. and the basic motif for who it is different. special. a sort of masterpiece out by ordinaries rules.