Scene of the Crime | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Scene of the Crime 

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Andre Techine's moody, erratic French thriller, about a provincial nightclub owner (Catherine Deneuve) whose teenage son is terrorized by a pair of escaped criminals. The plain, generic title disguises some slippery metaphorical intentions, since neither scene nor crime invites a straight, literal reading (the wider crime is family and social rather than particular, and the scene embraces all of provincial life). Techine has had his ups and downs as a stylist--up with the ambitious French Provincial (1974), down with the unwatchable Hotel des Ameriques and other hack-about efforts--but this film seems to set him finally on firm formal ground. The relentless wide-screen panning, from character to character through a succession of deliriously packed-in landscapes, is lyrical and strange: it creates connections and sunders them and sends the narrative spinning into areas of dark emotional suggestion. The film is hardly without faults, and the proliferation of themes (landscape as a locus of guilt, the savage silences of family life, the raw uncertainties of sexual jealousy and passion, etc) diffuses the line of tension, but the envelope of style is brilliantly assured. With Nicolas Giraudi, Wadeck Stanczak, Victor Lanoux, and Danielle Darrieux, an elegant Ophulsian memory amid the lyrical image swirl. (Fine Arts)

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