(director/writer: Louis Malle; screenwriters: Jean-Claude Carriere/Daniel Boulanger/from a story by Georges Darien; cinematographer: Henry Decae; editor: Henri Lanoe; music: Henri Lanoe; cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo (Georges Randal), Geneviève Bujold (Charlotte), Marie Dubois (Geneviève), Julien Guiomar (Abbott Lamargelle), Christian Lude (Uncle Bonnar), Paul Le Person (Roger La Honte), Francoise Fabian (Ida), Martine Sarcey (Renee), Marlene Jobert (Broussaille), Bernadette Lafont (Marguerite, the maid), Charles Denner (Cannonier), Marc Dudicourt (Antoine); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Louis Malle; United Artists; 1967-France/Italy-in French-dubbed in English)

“Entertaining but cold light satire of French bourgeois society in the early 1900s.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The entertaining but cold light satire of French bourgeois society in the early 1900s is based on a story by Georges Darien and is written by Jean-Claude Carriere, Daniel Boulanger and director Louis Malle(“My Dinner With Andre”/”Alamo Bay”/”Black Moon”). Jean-Paul Belmondo plays the orphan anti-hero George Randal, who becomes a dandy thief, bent on revenge, because his unscrupulous guardian Uncle Bonnar (Christian Lude) cheated him out of his inheritance when he returns home after college and army service. Uncle Bonnar’s pretty daughter Charlotte (Geneviève Bujold), the love of Georges’s life, is forced to marry a rich neighbor (Marc Dudicourt). But at her engagement party Georges steals the valuable family jewelry box and flees to Brussels, as uncle calls off the wedding because the would-be groom is now without wealth. On the train Georges is befriended by the phony criminal priest Lamargelle (Julien Guiomar), and gets mentored to become a top professional thief and member of his gang of thieves. Georges at first partners with the amiable Roger (Paul Le Person), but soon prefers working alone. Georges uses society women to give him tips on which homes to rob in their circle, while they get a cut in the profits. The remainder of the film shows Georges committing a number of daring thefts from London to Paris to Brussels. The best scene has the debauched uncle dying and Charlotte and Georges reuniting, after kept apart for years. While uncle is in his death bed and can’t talk, Georges learns that both Charlotte and him have been cut of the will. So he calmly forges another will leaving everything to Charlotte, while the agonizing uncle takes it all in until his last breath. But even after uncle’s death, Georges can’t retire and realizes he gets his kicks in life from taking risks as a thief.

Tedium sets in early on as the overlong tale is sapped of its energy by its slow pace. What stands out is the fine photography by cinematographer Henry Decae, the splendid recreation of the glory and squalor of the period through its lavish detailed sets and costumes, and that it cleverly gets in its pot shots at the immorality and hypocrisy of the upper middle-class.