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Flash Review, 3-9: Repartir a Zero
"Service Entrance" & "Serie Noire": Facing fear at the Rendez-vous with French Cinema

Natalia Verbeke and Fabrice Luchini in Philippe Le Guay's "Service Entrance." Courtesy SND.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2011 Paul Ben-Itzak

NEW YORK -- J'etait bouleversé par le film "Serie Noire" d'Alain Corneau, surtout le performance de Patrick Dewaere. I begin in French because the word 'bouleverse' is hard to translate in English, but seems the 'juste mot' to apply to how devastated one is after viewing this classic 1979 Franco-American film noir -- Corneau worked from noir progenitor Jim Thompson's novel -- as I was last night at the Walter Reade Theater, where it struck just one of the spectrum of moods evoked by the Film Society of Lincoln Center's contribution to the city-wide Rendez-vous with French Cinema, playing at the Walter Reade through March 13. If you think you've previously seen Dewaere, who plays a door-to-door salesman on the brink in the seedy peripherie of Paris pushed over the brink when he's tempted by the nubile Mona (the late Marie Trintignant in her first major role) and her aunt's hidden cache of $25,000, it may be because he became the prototype for a new brand of alluring, frazzled, ADHD young truants whose desperate descent into hyper-violence seems inevitable, most recently embodied by Vincent Cassel in the two Mesrine films. To learn afterwards that Dewaere committed suicide in 1982 at the age of 35 is almost not surprising, given the over the top unbridled passion he unleashes as Franck Poupart in "Serie Noire." Adding to the poignancy of watching Trintignant's electrifying freshness -- was sulking ever so seductive? -- is the awareness that she too would die a violent demise, in 2003, after a fight with her rock star lover. Thompson called his book "A Hell of a Woman," and Trintignant embodies the part, even when she isn't saying anything.

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