Lucien is a sociopath. And I mean that. A sociopath is defined as, among other things, a person who has a grandiose sense of self, a lack of shame, guilt or remorse and an ongoing disregard for the rights of others. Lucien is a sociopath who has an insatiable ego and could give a rat’s ass about anything or anyone he meets. So who does a young man such as this join up with in late-1930’s France? Oh, not the resistance, but the Gestapo. Promise Lucien power and toss some booze and guns his way and you’ve got him hooked. And once in, man he can be scary. An older man in one scene tells him what to do, so Lucien simply informs the man he doesn’t like being told what to do and, without even knowing the man’s name or why he’s in the office, chains him up, puts duct tape over his mouth, draws a mouth on the duct tape in lipstick and opens a straight razor, only to be abruptly interrupted.
After joining the Gestapo, Lucien begins making frequent trips to a particular Jewish family who is allowed to live under the radar because the do the Gestapo’s tailoring. This sort of place is perfect for Lucien because he waltzes in holding all the cards. Though they are much older, he hits on the daughter, eats the food and just generally degrades them. The daughter’s name is France and, beyond being beautiful, talented, smart and artistic, she is frustratingly infatuated with Lucien. She finds him utterly repulsive but can’t seem to pull her gaze away from him. The first second she seems him she can’t seem to stop staring. It’s as though she knows that he goes against all that she is; yet she can’t help but be magnetized to his power and confidence. In other words, she wants to hate him, she ought to hate him, but somehow she can’t stop wanting him.Are you catching the morality tale Louis Malle is telling in this 1974 French classic? ‘France’ is suddenly confronted with a Nazi at her doorstep and, try as she might, she ultimately can’t turn away from him. Malle is pointing a stern finger at his homeland and, not surprisingly, this movie was very controversial when it came out. It’s a fantastic piece that is shot well, performed well and written insanely well. The production is so detailed and natural that it’s truly amazing. If you’re looking for a flick that will get you thinking and keep you thinking, this is one you should pick up, especially if you tend to geek out about World War II.