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36 QUAI DES ORFEVRES

SYNOPSIS:
Léo Vrinks (Daniel Auteuil) and Denis Klein (Gérard Depardieu) are seasoned cops who work from the HQ at 36 Quai des Orfèvres. It's a dirty beat, and both Vrinks and Klein use unorthodox and even illegal means to get their leads. Long time colleagues and once friends, their relationship has soured under increasingly heated professional rivalry. It all comes to a head when Commissioner Robert Manciniand (André Dussollier) is about to retire, and offers promotion into his job to whichever of the two bags the gang organising a series of brutal armed robberies targeting armoured cash vans.

Review by Louise Keller:
A gritty and darkly disturbing thriller about cops and thugs, 36 Quai Des Orfèvres takes us deep into their milieu. The subject matter is ugly, and the taste of this nasty world, where there is little difference between the violence of the police and the criminals they are pursuing is startling and effective. Not everyone may wish to be ensconced. However, the combination of Daniel Auteuil and Gérard Depardieu as rival cops makes for riveting cinema. Their ambitious cops were once close friends, but are now bitter enemies, with their moral philosophies leading them to opposing ends of the spectrum.

There's a wail of despair from the confines of a prison behind barbed wire, and we see an inmate sobbing grief uncontrollably into his pillow. Thus starts this story about the deadly rivalry between Denis Klein (Depardieu) and Léo Vrinks (Auteuil). The highly immoral playground in which both these cops live becomes the platform from which each makes his choices. The rivalry takes one big step up the rung of viciousness, when both men learn that whoever nails those responsible for the series of recent brutal armed robberies, will receive the sought after prestigious promotion to commissioner. Brutality, viciousness, underhandedness and the outright inexcusable are what follows.

Our sympathies are always with Auteuil's Vrinks, who may mingle with riff-raff, but ultimately recognises that there are limits. Depardieu's Klein is a sad and lost character, engulfed in his lonely and isolating obsession for power. Both performances are spot on, although either actor could have nailed either role. There are parallels between both men, but the gulf widens. Vrinks shares a close and loving relationship with his wife Camille (Valeria Golino), whereas Klein's marriage is but a cold shell. The action drives the film, and the characters are swept along with the events. It's a powerful film whose relationships are nicely developed, yet it leaves us with a rather bitter taste of a repulsive world that might be well avoided. The music is dirge-like, and drowns us in sorry. The title refers to the address of police headquarters, the center of law enforcement - and corruption.

Review by +Andrew L. Urban:
Film noir is not just about deep shadows and lots of night shoots, rain where possible and dark alleyways. It's more particularly about the noir that drives its characters, their weaknesses and their demons, their venality and greed, lust ... any combo of some or all of the deadly sins, in fact. In a world where the realities are far more noir than any film, it has become less fashionable to make these dark films, and only indies dare do it with any exuberance (if that's the right word for a noir film). But here is a genuine article: 36 ... is knee deep in the mud of human weaknesses and at its moral core is nothing more complicated than an inflated ego coupled with the insecurities this unleashes.

In what is a bravura twist of casting, director Olivier Marchal has chosen Gerard Depardieu as the carrier of this tragic and fatally flawed characteristic, as Klein. Depardieu's conflicted and tortured character is both loathsome and pitiable, and even understandable. It's a complex performance that beautifully counterpoints Daniel Auteil's equally tormented Vrinks. The actors spark off each other for what is magnificently maintained tension, thanks also to a terrific script and Marchal's gutsy direction.

There are two plot points that could be tidied up, but not everyone will notice (some of my colleagues-in-critique seem not to have, for example) and the sheer strength of the character-driven story ensures a gripping two hours.

The film doesn't overdo the noir stylistics, but the locations (such as the industrial setting for the major confrontation with a gang of violent robbers) are enough to give the film a gritty feel. Occasionally graphic violence is tough but not gratuitous or out of place and the emotional layers that drive the characters provide plenty of hooks for our engagement. There is the personal relationship that has strained to breaking point, the professional competition for the top job coming at just the wrong time, and the decisions that each man makes that propel the story to its final and terrible conclusion.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

36 QUAI DES ORFEVRES (MA)
(France, 2004)

CAST: Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu, André Dussollier, Roschdy Zem, Valeria Golino, Daniel Duval, Francis Renaud, Catherine Marchal

PRODUCER: Franck Chorot, Cyril Colbeau-Justin, Jean-Baptiste Dupont

DIRECTOR: Olivier Marchal

SCRIPT: Dominique Loiseau, Frank Mancuso, Olivier Marchal, Julien Rappeneau

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Denis Rouden

EDITOR: Achdé

MUSIC: Erwann Kermorvant, Axelle Renoir

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ambre Fernandez

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 10, 2005







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