Max et les Ferrailleurs
A rather bizarre genre film from erratic extra-New Wave auteur Claude Sautet, this 1971 policier pivots on Michel Piccoli as a necktie detective in Paris maddened by culprits escaping conviction due to insufficient evidence. This is the same year as Dirty Harry and The French Connection, but Piccoli’s impassive mystery man (who is mocked by his fellow cops) doesn’t resort to force or bullying—he resolves to burnish his record by inciting a bank robbery amid a group of low-rent scrap-metal thieves and then catching them in the act. His access point is one of the petty crook’s hooker girlfriends (Romy Schneider), whom he "dates" but doesn’t bed, instead photographing her and playing gin rummy. Its own kind of anti-heist film, Sautet’s low-boiler treats Piccoli’s peculiar, primly dressed protagonist as a cipher, until we’re given cause to wonder if he’s insane, a turning point hardly substantiated by the otherwise vague screenplay. Schneider is vivacious as always, but the novelty of seeing Piccoli playing a cool genre hero is cut by the Bukowskian levels of cigs and drinks consumed, in every scene, to the extent that we begin to worry about the actors’ health more than the understated story. Michael Atkinson
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