NADA (Claude Chabrol, 1974)

In the shadow of the Algerian War and the 1968 uprising and brutal reprisals, authority, once sancrosanct in France, has crumbled as a shibboleth. Look at poor Treuffais, university professor, who commands so little respect in his own classroom! Treuffais belongs to the Nada gang, an anarchic group fueled less by conviction than by revolutionary nostalgia—a remnant of 1968 aspirations. Épaulard, openly disillusioned, is nonetheless impressed into the current cause, the plan to kidnap the U.S. ambassador; Épaulard is impotent, both politically and sexually. Meanwhile, young D’Arey (Lou Castel, briefly vivid), upon downing a motorcycle cop—with a Davidian slingshot after his gun jams (stymied Leftist weaponry proves a motif here)—says aloud to himself before shouting it to the Parisian night air, “Now I’m a killer!” as though he were a kid who had just lost his virginity. Diaz is the one male member of the gang to possess gravitas, but this is undercut by his ending up by hugging Épaulard, an old comrade, whom (before learning his identity) he had meant to assassinate. For this bunch, including fierce Cash, the one female member, things are doomed to go awry.
     Director Claude Chabrol makes no such mistake as Constantinos Costa-Gavras did with Z (1969); he has fashioned a taut thriller whose tone doesn’t get away from him. Nada is bereft of any comical foolishness. Chabrol’s film is dead-serious, as the life of the kidnapped ambassador recedes from importance on both sides, one of which seeks correction of its psychological imbalance, the other of which pursues a political agenda. The latter, the police, in trying to reassert authority proves only how incompetent they are except when it comes to one thing: killing.
     Chabrol’s heart, like the gang’s, half-resides in 1968. His head has moved on.

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