Le Pacha

Le Pacha

1968 - Dir: Georges Lautner - Cast: Jean Gabin (Commissaire Joss, Le Pacha), André Pousse (Quinquin), Robert Dalman (Inspecteur Gouvion), Dany Carrel (Nathalie), Jean Gaven (Marc), Maurice Garrel (Brunet)

I continued my journey through French cinema history with this police-gangster movie starring a 64-year old Jean Gabin as a police officer who discovers that his colleague and best friend, who has committed suicide (or was murdered) was a 'dirty cop'; in order to clean the person's name, Gabin becomes more than a bit dirty himself.

The film opens with an ingenious robbery, ending in slaughter, with the criminal mastermind killing all of his partners in crime. It's a well-conceived, protracted sequence, clearly influenced by the works of Jean-Pierre Melville, but unfortunately the rest of the film is not on the same level. The premise of the police commissioner who wants to settle (and cover up) a few things in the last months before his retirement, is interesting, but the movie never lives up to its full potential. The plot involves links between nightclub owners, racketeers, dancers and corrupt police men and we get a couple of seemingly interminable scenes set in 'hip' Parisian nightclubs. Things picks up again near the end, with a fairly good finale set in an empty warehouse.

There are a few good jokes on dialogue level - basically wise-cracks in the style of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett - but Gabin is mumbling his lines, and the abundant use of argot (French slang) makes some of the dialogue virtually unintelligible. Le Pacha remains watchable - all in all it's a decent police thriller - but considering the talent involved, it's a disappointment.

Note: Serge Gainsbourg has a cameo in a sound studio; he also sings the theme song: Requiem pour un con (Requiem for a sonnavabitch)


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