Haunted by death-obsessed men of action, Un Flic (A Cop) is a fitting final act for noir master Jean-Pierre Melville, who died in 1973, a year after this production. The title suggests that film is about Edouard Coleman, Alain Delon’s weary policeman, but the true subject is Coleman’s age. These characters are all worn down by time, and while that doesn’t make them sentimental or sloppy, they are always aware that any screw-up could get them killed. The balletic opening bank heist, a precise, dialogue-free set piece where deferred stares speak louder than the roaring of waves rolling in at a nearby beach, happens at twilight, but the metallic sky looming overhead makes it impossible to be sure of the time of day. After this robbery, a group of thieves led by Simon (Richard Crenna) plan their next job, and Edouard follows them. Meanwhile, a love triangle between Edouard, his mistress, Cathy (Catherine Deneuve), Simon, her lover, takes center stage. Their uneasy relationship is at an impasse: At the bars, they sip Scotch, and warily exchange sidelong glances. Feelings are a liability in Un Flic, so Delon’s heartsick detective always looks vaguely distracted, his eyes betraying the character’s sadness. At the end, his partner fidgets while Edouard, trapped in his own head, drives down the Champs-Élysées. The other cop knows he can’t do anything for Edouard, except maybe offer a stick of gum. Un Flic‘s Paris is purgatory; the city’s silvery-blue, halogen-lit miasma is a fact of life.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 19, 2013