English Title: The Thief of Paris
Original Title: Le voleur
Country: France, Italy
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Director: Louis Malle
Music: Henri Lanoë
Cinematography: Henri Decaë
Paul Le Person
THE THIEF OF PARIS certainly is not Louis Malle’s most illustrious work, pales in comparison with classics like ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS (1958), THE FIRE WITHIN (1963), LACOMBE, LUCIEN (1974), or even his Hollywood legacies as ATLANTIC CITY (1980) and VANYA ON 42ND STREET (1994), but it might be his brightest and the most nihilistic.
In Malle’s film, burglary is not a disgrace profession at all, and Georges Randal (Belmond) is a very promising one, with his bourgeois upbringing and extraordinary composure. His first go is an act of revenge to sabotage his cousin Charlotte’s (Bujold) arranged marriage organized by his rapacious uncle Urbain (Lude), who raises him up but also appropriates properties of George’s deceased parents. So he has to leave, accidentally joined by two habitual thieves, the priest Félix (Guiomar) and Roger-La-Honte (Le Person). Together, Georges marches on successfully and gets flirty with several women, Broussaille (Jobert), Roger’s brothel-running sister in London; Ida (Fabian), one of her girls; Renée (Sarcey), the wife of his college mate Mouratet (Crouzet) and Genevière (Dubois), an unhappily married wife, who also wants to rob her husband blind.
Most of the time, the film embraces a nonchalant casualness in the supposedly highly-surreptitious activities, minutely showing viewers the details of breaking-in a villa, prizing open a safe box or using caustic acid, meanwhile bourgeois class again is under the lash of Malle’s wielding, the ultimate shame is Urbain on his death bed, he has to watch Georges feasibly falsify his will and Charlotte utter that she has no sympathy to him at all.
Career hazard matters, particular for thieves, but Georges is the kind (one we are all too familiar with) that cannot stop even he patently comprehends the aftermath, because it is the danger is beckoning them to act, to induce the thrill and fulfillment his life needs, so in the final act, Malle mischievously lures us into a paranoiac game reflected from George’s mind, then calmly ends the film, an anticlimax fits this generally unexciting adventure.
There are nothing too thrilling for the cast to do either, Belmondo might not be the romantic type, but as rakish as he could be, Guiomar liberates some deadpan seriousness of juggling his holy vocation with mundane misdeeds. Belles are all over the maps (Bujold, Sarcey, Dubois, Fabian, even Lafont in her small part as a very French maid), but never arouse too much frisson in their auxiliary functions, such a pity.