MICHEL DEVILLE. MASTER’S DOSSIER

A long time ago when I was a student at VGIK, I remember reading somewhere that on the set of Michel Deville’s movies actors felt as if they were having a rest. After all the depressing plots, intellectual puzzles, surrealist parables and whimsical author’s creations it was “so simple” to delve into everyday-life melodrama and love stories spiced with more and more  daring erotic scenes. When you take a look at the career record of such masters of French acting school as Jean-Louis Trintignant, Anna Karina, Pierre Clémenti, Catherine Deneuve, Romy Schneider, Michèle Morgan, Michel Piccoli you’ll understand what that very critic had in mind. Time has ranked the outstanding directors of the epoch, but this virtuoso filmmaker is often overlooked, though he is as much a sign of the cinematic epoch as Godard, Chabrol, Malle, Rohmer, Rivette. Perhaps it is now that we can grasp the significance of his movies which were considered somewhat simplistic and lighthearted at the time. They might be lighthearted but never simplistic. Deville was a much more skilled master than the makers of mainstream commercial movies, who simplified classical genres to suit the tastes of the audience, intentionally lowered the aesthetic criteria. Deville did the opposite. He subjected the seemingly unpretentious entertaining plots to an intellectual analysis, hinting that he knew much more about his characters than they themselves. He accomplished it with exquisite mastery using elaborate camerawork which can be an object of envy for such modern experts as Eric Gautier and Robby Müller. Once his passion for all sorts of experiments brought about the birth of a true masterpiece - “Dossier 51”, which is rediscovered by the new generation of cinemagoers to their utter amazement. We’ll just specify some quotations from IMDB with enraptured reviews of Deville’s old masterpiece by present-day viewers. And along the way we’ll take another look at his other films, filled with “all varieties of passion” recorded by an outstanding film master.
 
Pyotr Shepotinnik
 
P.S.
 
«My favorite movie of all time. I've seen it once, when it came out in 1978, and I've never seen it since. But I can't stop thinking about it.»
 
«This movie pioneers techniques - the pseudo-documentary, the POV camera, the relentless naturalism - that have since been adopted by thriller directors around the world. If you have a chance to see this undiscovered gem, don't pass it up.»
 
«I saw this film on my university campus when it came out in the late 70s. For the time, it was a technical landmark, entirely shot from a subjective camera POV (For an example of a failure of this technique, see the 1946 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's Lady In The Lake). I loved the film, not just for its technical bravura, but for its disturbing tone and intriguing narrative.»
 
«Easily, one of the better crime stories I've watched. The plot moves forward at a decent pace, decent enough to get one glued to their seats. Every single casting did justice to their role. And the climax is just icing on the top, you couldn't have asked for more. On the whole, a superb movie from Michel Deville.»