15 November 2010 | mjneu59
a hard sell on this side of the Atlantic
The improbable hero of this unusual French import is Pierre Lacenaire, a gentleman scoundrel whose flamboyant manner, articulate wit, and polite but profound contempt for a society he found hypocritical earned him many admirers, including the police detective responsible for sending him to the guillotine in 1836. The film might have been a leisurely, lightweight period comedy with little relevance outside its native country were it not for the eccentric (and sometimes dangerous) charm of its protagonist, shown arguing the case against himself with crowd pleasing panache during the final, farcical courtroom trial, demanding a death sentence to secure his own immortality. The film itself is equally playful and unpredictable, camouflaging its modest budget behind a curious leapfrog structure and several unexpected gestures too surprising not to be true. If Lacenaire were alive today he would likely regard it as the fulfillment of a dream come true: to see his entire life transformed into theatre.