I was impressed by "The Judge and the Assassin" and would have thought more of the film had I not watched it to the very end. In it there was a Leftist political celebration that was, I presume, done to highlight the director's purpose in creating this period piece into a movie. For me the problem was that the impact of the film did not match such boldly stated politics. For me, "The Judge and the Assassin" was a strong story of Truth, Justice, and the Franconian Way (with appologies to superman who most certainly did not appear in this film).
This is an excellent film about a very depraved murderer and violator of young women and the self-promoting efforts of a judge to realize justice as he perceived it. The preformance of Michel Galabru as the vile killer deserved an Oscar but, as a foreign-language film, it didn't even receive a mention in 1976. As his murders persisted over a two year period, the judge was already readying his prosecution in conversations with a fellow jurist. Eventually the two did have to deal with each other and I came to understand that the essential issue was the sanity of the accused. I'm no proponent of the death penalty but I couldn't seen that the issue was all that significant. After all, the murderer did on many occassions, make demands and requests that suggested a pretty clear knowledge of what was happening to him. Add to that the barbarity and extent of his crimes and the death penalty starts looking like the appropriate resolution. The murderer kept blaming others for his crimes by suggesting that he should have been better diagnosed and treated for his sexually perverse obsessions (more suggestions that the man was sane enough). I realize that I'm belaboring the point but wait til you see how the director, Bertrand Tavernier, gets caught up in it. Apparently in France you don't execute an insane individual and the judge saw that his path to fame involved the proper use of the guillotine. Thus the movie's ending disappoints and we find a minor portion of the film is now the focal point of the director.
These events, by the way, took place during the time of the infamous Dreyfus Affair which was referred to from time to time. I gathered that it was used to butress the director's depiction of the judge and his crowd (they didn't like the Captain). I would have to agree that the treatment of Captain Dreyfus was inexcusable but remember that his opponents were in the majority of French opinion for quite a while back then. I got a kick out of the murder's politics as well. He would frequently yell out "Long Live Anarchy, Long Live Socialism!". I presumed that those two political theories would be at each other's throats one they succeeded in jetissoning whatever powers that be.
I said that this is a very good movie and I want to repeat that. There's a lot of good dialogue and character development. But don't say I didn't warn you about the ending.