Jean-Paul Belmondo’s Paul tries to help an old military pal escape the police after the latter accidentally kills a cop and runs. Paul relies on a collection of cat-eye’d ladies who are all rather tired of his bullshit, but who he still manages to sweet talk and massage into providing the assistance he requires for his old buddy. At the end said buddy reveals Paul’s psychopathy in a pithy remark he made years ago, but now disavows, except we just watched an hour of him doing it. The original title, Les Distractions, makes more sense to me. The English title seems to suggest much more of an intense thriller than this actually is. The buddy on the run is almost a side story. We’re much more interested in our newspaper photographer’s complex interactions toward assisting his fugitive friend, who at one point is stealing food from literal hogs on a farm. It doesn’t take long to hit bottom.
Main lesson: When talking a friend down from a difficult bind, yes, bring wine, bread and sausage, but also, take the freaking gun away from him. It seems simple, but somehow overlooked here.
Secondary thought: I could never treat ladies the way Paul absently takes them for granted, or have I? It’s a stickler that reminds us of moments that we can’t be proud of (though at least we are still aware that there are behaviors that we shouldn’t be proud of!). Said ladies each moan about being unimportant to him, uninterested in being part of some harem. So it goes. While we try to rescue a pal in trouble, Paul is also having to clumsily diffuse the psychic bombs of relationships (the demands of love, marriage, and fidelity) that still somehow orbit his charisma.
For a long time Belmondo’s face was the signal of French art film for me. That rubbery countenance and endless cigarette (did anyone smoke more on screen than this guy?) always makes me think of Breathless (also 1960), which this film resembles a bit in the protagonist’s irreverence though he’s basically both these characters in that film and a bit more.
It’s good fun to be looking at sixty year old Paris, and for a few bucks on Prime it’s a refreshing escape from the endless superhero slog we’re subjected to today.