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Evil at its most banal and inadequate
on 19 July 2006
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.