World War II Marathon: Lacombe Lucien (1974)

Hey, what do you know, film #26 in the World War II Marathon introduces me to yet another acclaimed director!

Written By: Louis Malle & Patrick Modiano
Directed By: Louis Malle

I had planned to write about Lacombe Lucien as soon as I finished watching it, but time management has never been my strong suit. As soon as the final seconds of Lacombe Lucien ticked off the DVD reader I was rushing out the door to hopefully make it to school on time. Now that I return home from another boring day at said educational institution I am trying to remember the awesome theme I had running through my head for Lacombe Lucien. Damn old age and my shoddy memory, damn you both to hell!

Wait, wait, it’s coming back to me now, yes, there it is. The further that I delved into Lacombe Lucien the more I realized that it is the perfect companion piece to Roma, Città Aperta. Both are vastly different in the views they present, but they tackle the idea of what a nations citizens will do during war time. Roma, Città Aperta looks at the role of the patriot, the man or woman willing to die for their country against the invaders. Lacombe Lucien focuses on the collaborators, the men and women who want to survive and in doing so align themselves with their conquerors. Lacombe Lucien is more meditative on this idea, but still, the similarity in subject matter drew my interest.

Before I go any further with this review I feel the need to let you in on a little secret. This isn’t my first Louis Malle film, despite what I said in my little pre-review blurb up above. The honest truth is that I watched Au Revoir Les Enfants a few months ago, but haven’t posted my review of that yet because we haven’t reached its place in this marathon. I’m going to spoil you a little bit with this bit of knowledge, I loved Au Revoir Les Enfants and Lacombe Lucien is more of the same from Louis Malle. It’s a different movie in a lot of ways, but in terms of tone and allowing a film to play out at the speed of life Lacombe Lucien and Au Revoir Les Enfants couldn’t be more similar.

I’m beginning to think that the speed of life factor I spoke of earlier may be Louis Malle’s mark, the one identifying factor he imparts unto all of his movies. I won’t deny that Lacombe Lucien moves at a slower pace, but I call that the speed of life pace because Malle creates a world that is all about scenes and moments unfolding naturally. Quick cuts and rapid montages would do nary a smidgen of justice to the world of Lacombe Lucien or the characters that inhabit that world. In order for the viewer to truly capture the time of the film, the characters and the setting in your mind it is necessary to take a slow and languid journey right alongside Lucien. He never quite understands his world, and neither do we, but by allowing the journey to take on a more natural form Malle puts us in that same mindset as Lucien and as his world comes alive so does the film come alive for us.

Ugh, I keep getting pulled away from this review, one of the perils of moving I guess. I apologize in advance for the scattered nature of my thoughts on Lacombe Lucien, trust me they were crystallized in my brain at one point, but interruption after interruption have put a stop to that. Anyways, there’s a lot to Lacombe Lucien. I can understand why on the surface some people would come away thinking this is a movie about a messed up kid who does messed up things. But that reading sells the movie short, especially when you take into account the people Lucien comes across, specifically the Horn family. I don’t think I would be out on any sort of limb to categorize that family as an allegory for France during World War II. You have the bitter, hateful and afraid to act elderly in the form of Grandma. The father takes on the form of the adults left over after the invasion, not liking his situation but willing to do what he must to survive. The daughter is the rebellious youth, with plenty of ideas of how to fight back but lacking the resources or inclination to actually do so. And that is just one possible reading, Lacombe Lucien is a deep film that provides plenty more for the viewer to chew on.

Once again, I do apologize for the scattered nature of this review, it’s clearly not one of my best and those of you who do read what I write deserve better. However, I’m hoping that at the very least I left you with a general idea of why I feel Lacombe Lucien is such an effective meditative look at French collaboration in World War II. Lacombe Lucien isn’t afraid to move at its own pace, nor is it afraid to present a cad of a main character, or to show beauty in a time of ugliness. I never heard Lacombe Lucien mentioned among the best World War II pictures, hopefully this review will cause a few of you to check it out and see that it does belong in that grouping.

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill

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4 responses to “World War II Marathon: Lacombe Lucien (1974)

  1. This is a tremendous picture and I didn’t mind the nature of your review – in fact I found it quite fitting.

    It’s a film that leaves you with a lot to digest when it’s over, making it a tough one to assess. It is a powerful movie.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, and having forgotten going into Lacombe Lucien that Malle was the films director it’s power managed to sneak up on me.

  3. Kalle Blomkvist

    There´s another better French movie about a similar theme: Le silence de la mer.
    Both movies ar e artistic master pieces and politically revealing. If you know the historic facts of how many French collaborated with nazi germany, these movies constitute also a fair piece of education about the conformist and subdued behaviour of quite a number of French towards the nazis.

    It wouldn´t surprize me if some Jewish or Russian viewers were appalled by these movies.

  4. I suppose it would depend on the content of the films, otherwise they may simply accept them as great films.

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