|36 Quai des Ofèvres
36 QUAI DES OFÈVRES is a crackling good policier enlivened by the
fifth big screen pairing of two of France's best actors, Daniel Auteuil and
Gérard Depardieu. While it took four writers to concoct the plot, the film
still rises above the norm to deliver thrills and action.
The story line is fairly straightforward: two detectives, heads of rival
teams, are assigned to investigate a series of robberies. The prize for the
man who solves the case is a promotion. As 36 QUAI DES OFÈVRES unfolds,
the audience learns that the pair share more than just a professional
competition; these are former friends who were once rivals for the
affections of the same woman (Valeria Golino).
Opening with a wonderful set piece that crosscuts between a
retirement party for a policeman and an assault on the owner of the
establishment where the celebration is occurring. The owner, a former
prostitute named Manou (Mylène Demongeot) is a close friend of Léo
Vrinks (Auteuil) who swears vengeance. And he ekes out a nasty
punishment on the attackers once they are located. In thanks, Manou
provides a lead on the robberies, but that lead falls apart when the
suspect jumps out of a window, dragging Vrinks with him.
A snitch used by Vrinks named Silien (Roschdy Zem) tips off the
cop to the location of the gang, but he also uses his time with the cop
to commit a murder -- using the unwitting Vrinks as his alibi. Hoping
to land the promotion, Vrinks heads to apprehend the robbers, but the
stakeout is compromised by Denis Klein (Depardieu), his rival. There is
much double crossing and Vrinks eventually is investigated by internal
affairs over his relationship with Silien -- all masterminded, of course, by
Klein. With Vrinks in jail, Klein receives the promotion.
While jailed, Vrinks' wife (Golino) is killed. Years pass and he
eventually is released bent solely on revenge. Whether or not he is
able to eke out a just punishment on Klein is the crux of the film.
Olivier Marchal, one of the film's three writers and its director, spent
many years on the French police force, so he brings a level of truth to
the material that otherwise might be lacking. (Indeed, he claims it is
based in part on true events.) He directs with a fluid style that allows his
two lead actors to shine. Both Auteuil and Depardieu offer terrific
As a note, the film's title refers to the police headquarters in Paris,
much as Scotland Yard in London or One Police Plaza in New York City.
This movie also does not have anything to do with Henri-Georges
Clouzot's 1947 thriller QUAI DES OFÈVRES which revolved around a
murder. On its own, however, 36 QUAI DES OFÈVRES proves to be a
wholly satisfying and thrilling experience.
Viewed at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center
2005 Rendez-vous with French Cinema