A Pure Formality (1994)

PG-13   |    |  Crime, Drama, Thriller

A Pure Formality (1994) Poster

Onoff is a famous writer who hasn't published any new books for quite some time and has become a recluse. When he is picked up by the police one stormy night, without any identification, ... See full summary »


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2 April 2003 | falconesque
Intimate little mystery
I'll admit I channel-surfed into this gem. Click, and there's Depardieu, soaking wet and haggard, speaking French with English subtitles, in a lovely cluttered room...okay, I'm intrigued. (The room alone is enough to hold my attention; wonderful set dressing.) But moments later, the intrigue deepens. Who's that Inspector, so skeptical yet almost friendly in his interrogation? The actor looks so familiar. And his Inspector is nearly apologetic. Perhaps he's a fan of Depardieu's writer?

Boiled down to its essence, A Pure Formality is two guys talking, but I love two-guys-talking films. I was intrigued enough to avoid the listings and let the credits reveal Roman Polanski as acting the Inspector -- though he'd started his career acting, I'd seen only cameo appearances -- and his succinct performance dictates the pacing more often than not. You gotta like the guy, even though the Inspector's the antagonist to Depardieu's sympathetic and central point-of-view.

The film appeals to me as a writer, worrying if another eloquent phrase will ever flow, as a reader of mysteries and non-fictional criminal law (intertwining cluesmithing; you can keep the gory details), as a fetishist for the French countryside and language, and as a lover of libraries.

A Pure Formality is craftsmanship deserving a stellar DVD release.

Critic Reviews


Release Date:

26 May 1995



Country of Origin

Italy, France

Filming Locations

Ronciglione, Viterbo, Lazio, Italy

Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$35,639 29 May 1995

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:


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