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Louis Malle's Lacombe, Lucien still impresses, although it does tend to amble in the third act just when you might expect it to tighten its grip. But it's still a casually powerful reminder of the less heroic side of France under Vichy rule (the Nazis are barely seen in the film) as its none too bright farmboy just drifts almost accidentally into collaboration with the German Police made up entirely of his compatriots after being turned down for the Resistance. The film's major achievement is in showing, much like fascism in general, the appeal that collaboration had to the disaffected and the underachieving outsiders in the community (only one of the `police' is a real zealot) and the attraction of undeserved and unearned power as Lucien finds the power he has over people (particularly the unspoken threat of handing his Jewish `girlfriend' - perhaps a little over symbolically called `France' - to the Germans) is far more intoxicating than killing mere animals.

Throughout, as with Melville's resistance masterpiece L'Armee des Ombres, there's a mundane sense of reality that heightens the drama. Set in the kind of small picturesque village that outsiders find idyllic but which is a tedious hell to live in for the locals, it shows how malaise and opportunity is far more of a driving force than malice. Certainly it's far from glamorous, its collaborators hanging round in a local hotel getting drunk and bemoaning their lot as the war news gets continually worse (as one points out, you have to listen to both the German and the British radio reports "and split the difference" to find the truth) and they gradually get picked off by the emboldened locals.
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on 6 September 2009
Not many French films could reasonably be called great or classic, but this is a truly great film.

It is not flawless - one could say that the relationship between Lucien and France is dragged out too much - but as a whole the film provides a finely crafted and chilling insight into the meaning of occupation, not only in France but at all times and in all occupied countries.

There is Lucien, of course, the would-be Maquisard who looks for adventure and who is not too fussy on which side he finds it.

There is the disgraced ex-police inspector who sees in collaboration a chance to regain a lost former status and further his political aims while he can.

And there are the various hangers on at the hotel - the bon-vivant, the bitter anti-semite, the easy going African with his cheerful boater hat - who make hay while the sun shines, enjoying the transient power conferred on them by the crumbling regime, even as they use a portrait of Petain for target practice.

The film traces Lucien's path from enthusiastic collaborator to resister, redeemed through his love for a Jewish girl whom he saves from deportation. Yet there is no happy ending, for he cannot escape the consequences of his earlier crimes.

Malle deftly evokes the brutality and arbitrariness of collaboration in a screenplay which is constantly sharp edged and disturbing. In one unexpectedly disquieting scene, Lucien and his colleagues force their way into the home of a doctor who has helped the resistance, where he coolly snaps the mast off a model boat belonging to the son of the household; it is all too clear what this portends.

Pierre Blaise is excellent and gives Lucien a real physical presence, in a performance that is always animated and thoroughly convincing.

It is sad to record that he never pursued what could have been a promising film career; and even sadder that he died in 1975 at the wheel of a car that he had bought from the proceeds of his short spell as an actor.

All in all a fine and poignant film that will not easily be forgotten.
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What a great and brave film this is, a subtle and persuasive masterpiece, one of the very few to even begin to account for
French Collaboration in a way that cannot see it the whole. Tragic, elegiac and entirely persuasive, filmically and as narrative
it remains the only honest account of France's reckoning. A REAL must-see..brilliant.; the only essential film of a subject still underexamined, of a catastrophe, Great
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on 13 January 2014
A riveting study of how a young french peasant boy became a collaborator.Extremely painful viewing but full of interest and insight.
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on 11 March 2015
Thank you
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on 22 February 2008
I had to watch this film for my 1st year History course at University to see whether films can acurately represent the past. Even though this film is very accurate it is also RUBBISH! I have never been so bored in my life and couldnt wait to get out of the lecture theatre. I wasn't the only one by far. My essay on this module is due in 5 weeks time and I'm dreading the fact that I may need to actually watch this again.
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