Les Voleurs (thieves)

on December 25, 1996 by Melissa Morrison
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   A kind of "Jules et Jim" meets "Casino," the romantic triangle in this French film ("Les Voleurs") is tested by a botched crime. The addition of such an unintellectual element makes "Thieves" more engrossing on a crowd-pleasing level, yet it also deflates some of the film's loftier ideas. Philosophy professor Marie (Catherine Deneuve) is the leg of the triangle who's the main purveyor of such ideas. Early on, she's seen lecturing her students about human beings' natural instinct to exploit their fellow beings. Perhaps Marie's musing are meant to give intellectual heft to what would otherwise be the straightforward story of two brothers, one who's an honest cop, the other who's a crook.
   Deneuve's presence is welcome, but her role seems extraneous. Marie is the teacher and lover of Juliette (Laurence Cote), a troubled but, of course, beautiful tomboy from the projects. Juliette initiates an affair with Alex (played by Daniel Auteuil, Deneuve's co-star in the current "Ma Saison Preferee"), the cop, whose loner status and incorruptible integrity are ways of distancing himself from a family of professional car thieves. The problem is, Juliette works for Alex's estranged brother, the slick family man Ivan (Didier Bezace).
   Director and scripter Andre Techine ("The Wild Reeds") tells his story in a series of vignettes, staggering the chronology and point-of-view. As a result, the viewer's initial impressions and inferences are altered by successive scenes. It's an interesting technique but, like the infusion of philosophy, seems to exist only as an attempt to make "Les Voleurs" appear deeper than it actually is. Starring Catherine Deneuve, Daniel Auteuil, Laurence Cote and Didier Bezace. Directed and written by Andre Techine. Produced by Alain Sarde. A Sony Classics release. Drama. French-language; English subtitles. Rated R for strong sexuality, some violent moments and language. Running time: 117 min. Opens 12/25 NY.
Tags: Catherine Deneuve, Daniel Auteuil, Laurence Cote and Didier Bezace. Directed and written by Andre Techine. Produced by Alain Sarde. A Sony Classics release. Drama, family, tomboy, crook, vignettes, impressions
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