THE MARCORELLE AFFAIR (Serge Le Péron, 2000)

An absorbing study of the guilty hangover from the Left’s failure to transform French society in the late 1960s, L’affaire Marcorelle was written and directed, intricately and highly intelligently, by Serge Le Péron, a former editor of Cahiers du cinéma. This film is essential viewing for anyone interested in politics, especially judicial and legal politics.
     The film fuses genres: biting satire, straight thriller and paranoid thriller, punctuated by hilarious guilt-ridden dreams. It’s unlike any other movie I’ve seen.
     Jean-Pierre Léaud is again brilliant, this time as Judge François Marcorelle, a former Marxist who has retained his radical political leanings and is part of a Leftist community of friends, principally through his activist wife. The Marcorelles have a teenaged son and daughter, and one of the film’s most moving aspects consists of glimpses of the progressive home environment from which these children are plainly benefiting. But their father has ghosts with which to wrestle—ones that familially go much further back than 1968. Perhaps I should remind you, though, that Léaud himself famously participated in the 1968 street protests over the firing of Henri Langlois from the Cinémathèque Française, which Langlois had co-founded thirty-two years earlier.
     Judge Marcorelle strays from his marriage to have an affair with a Polish emigré, Agnieszka, who turns out to be a prostitute rather than the mere waitress she seems. Actually, Agnieszka is a puppet on a string who embroils the judge in a complicated web of guilt, corruption and betrayal. Irène Jacob is lively and vivid as Agnieszka.
     Another fascinating character is Fourcade, a young defense attorney—seemingly the soul of innocence to begin with, but a devious, treacherous man out to make his professional mark any way he can. Mathieu Amalric, as usual, is wonderful as Fourcade.

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