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Hardset. A Murder in Paris

Nibble by tiny nibble, guilt eats away at a mild-mannered man who has committed murder in "Hardset. A Murder in Paris," a pleasing oddity whose offbeat tone is abetted by '50s decor and a terrific score. Film enjoyed a brief theatrical run last fall, and deserves fest play.

Nibble by tiny nibble, guilt eats away at a mild-mannered man who has committed murder in “Hardset. A Murder in Paris,” a pleasing oddity whose offbeat tone is abetted by ’50s decor and a terrific score. Character thesps light up this modest but perfectly controlled exercise in literary adaptation, drawn from Tristan Bernard’s pre-existentialist tale of a man who enjoys life on the lam but feels even better when he believes the jig is up. Film enjoyed a brief theatrical run last fall, and deserves fest play.

Writer-director Philippe Collin is a wry vet critic with more than 100 TV shows about art and history under his belt. His prior feature, “The Last Days of Immanuel Kant,” was better than a decade ago.

Paul (stand-up comic Elie Semoun, in a nicely reserved, sober perf) needs money for expenses and alimony. His buddy, Daubelle (Philippe Uchan), introduces him to imperious loan shark Sarrebry (Henri Garcin). Unassuming Paul whacks him with a hammer and hits the road with envelopes of purloined cash.

Almost immediately, and with dark humor to spare, little telltale signs of a troubled conscience pop up.

Paul meets the desperately convivial Simone (Ludmila Mikael) and repairs to her villa. Along the way, he writes his own incriminating story and mails installments to a post office box in Paris.

Slightly stiff performances and pic’s saturated colors lend just the right amount of other-worldliness. The denouement, like the entire enterprise, blends the richness of literature with the visual economy of cinema.

Score by Jean-Claude Vannier, complete with musical saw, is a delight.

Hardset. A Murder in Paris

France

  • Production: An Ocean Films Distribution release of a Beatrice Caufman presentation of a BC Films, Arte France Cinema production, with participation of CNC, TPS Star, TV5 Monde. Produced by Beatrice Caufman. Directed by Philippe Collin. Screenplay, Collin, Jerome Tonnerre, based on the novel by Tristan Bernard.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Diane Baratier; editor, Emmanuele Labbe; music, Jean-Calude Vannier; production designer, Pascal Chatton; costume designer, Claire Gerard-Hirne; sound (Dolby), Xavier Griette, William Flageollet; assistant director, Denis Imbert. Reviewed at Club Marbeuf, Paris, Jan. 20, 2006. Running time: 98 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Elie Semoun, Ludmila Mikael, Philippe Uchan, Laurent Stocker, Henri Garcin, Jean-Quentin Chatelain, Fabienne Babe.
  • Music By: