Thanks to ARTE TV I could see now ‘s ‘film noir’ Tchao Pantin (or So Long, Stooge in its English version) starring in the lead role. The film was made in 1983, at a time when I was busy with changing the course of my life, and no wonder I missed it. It represents a milestone in the career of both Claude Berri who after this film took a three years break in order to create his two best known films – Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring – very different in subject and style, and also in the career of Coluche who assumes here a more ‘classical’ and fully dramatic role which could have been a changing point in his career. One year later however, Coluche will die in a motorcycle accident, and this film includes involuntarily kind of a premonitory coincidence as motorcycles and death play a key role in it.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086420/mediaviewer/rm4069560832

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086420/mediaviewer/rm4069560832

 

The story is quite a typical ‘film noir’ intrigue, with the key characters – a drunkard gas petrol pump seller who hides secrets of a previous tragic life and a loser type of small drug dealer of Moroccan origin who hides his own secrets among which a shelve full of books he claims to have read all, are getting together in a world were there is not much to attach to but maybe a peer similarly broken soul. There is also a girl in the film, a punk girl (we are in the early 80s, remember) but her role will become more clear only in the second part, after the younger character is murdered and the quiet and withdrawn older man engages on the path of finding the killers and revenging his friends. Typical intrigue, as I said, which has little chances to end otherwise than it ends.

 

(video source Criips Buldo)

 

As a reader of the ‘serie noir’ books since childhood I cannot avoid falling under the charm of such stories, especially when they take place in Paris, here a Paris of decrepit houses, or messy small flats, of dangerous streets and dubious bars where everything is trafficked. I was not that surprised to find out that the cinematography belongs to Bruno Nuytten the director of Camille Claudel which I have also seen and written about recently, a film that had an amazing cinematographic look. Coluche seems in this film like having taken inspiration from other Big Silent tough guys in the history of the French cinema, his role could have been played in other times and other periods of their respective careers by screen monsters like Michel Simon or Jean Gabin. I liked the performance of as the young punk girl whose profile and appearance seems to announce a quarter a century early the character of  Lisbeth Salander in the Scandinavian ‘Millennium’ saga. While the story has been played too many times before and after this film to surprise anybody nowadays, there are many good reasons to watch or watch again this movie.