Pierre Blaise, Aurore Clément, Holger Löwenadler. Dir: Louis Malle. R. IMDB.
Lacombe Lucien is one of those classic French movies that has been on my radar to watch forever, but I just needed a reason. That reason came last year when Patrick Modiano, who cowrote the screenplay with director Louis Malle, won the Nobel Prize in literature. It's set near the tail end of World War 2, in the southeast of France. Lucien Lacombe is a hick from the sticks if you will, a farm kid from the Lot region, who wants to join the resistance but is turned down because he is too young. So he joins the Gestapo instead, and the first thing he does is rat out the local resistance leader, the very man who refused him.
He joins the Gestapo, I think, because they'll take him, because they seem glamorous to him, and because being attached to them gives him status and power where previously he had none. Soon after, he meets a Jewish family living in hiding nearby. The family consists of the father, a tailor who makes Lucien his first real suit, his daughter France and his elderly mother. Lucien is fascinated by them, and becomes infatuated with France. What follows, follows from that.
After having read even one Modiano novel, I can feel his fingerprints all over this film. The ellipses, the things left unsaid, the dropping of hints is all so like Missing Person. There is so much left unsaid. Watching this movie, controversial on its release because of its portrayal of French collaborators, you have to do some mental gymnastics to catch the subtext, the subtle things Malle and Modiano show and don't. Lucien does bad things; he makes bad choices, and he will pay for them. At the same time there is this slow reaching towards the light. He knows everything we know.
It's an emotionally and intellectually challenging film.