A small town in the south-west of France, summer of 1944. Having failed to join the resistance, the 18 year old Lucien Lacombe, whose father is a prisoner in Germany and whose mother dates her employer, works for the German police. He then meets France Horn, the daughter of a rich jewish tailor.
- The Banality of Evil
Hannah Arendt's famous phrase sounds custom-made for this film. Young Lucien wants to join the French Resistance, but he's too immature. No problem, the Gestapo's hiring, and it can get so boring during wartime in a small, provincial town.
This film shocked France with its taboo subject of collaboration. They say that anyone can become a torturer. That is where this film's power lies -- Louis Malle lets us confront our heart of darkness. Devastating and unforgettable.
- A fascinating subject...
I wouldn't say I was totally bowled over, but there's little doubt that Malle's film is daring, original and certainly gives plenty of food for thought. His version of occupied France is one of banal existence peppered with casual brutality, so much so that Lucien's naive, easy compliance with evil is almost forgivable. Rejected by the resistance, Lucien falls in with the German police, outs and condemns his ex-teacher, and discovers an uneasy sense of fulfillment despite the depravity of his work.
Malle certainly communicates the confusion of occupation - the uneasy marriage of doing ones duty in war while trying to lead a normal life, there are times when it feels the whole society has been intangibly corrupted. But it's in the character of Lucien that the film has its power - his unapologetic destructiveness, yet that feeling that somehow he is both enemy and victim in the war...
- or the portrait of a young man, victim of his naivety
When this movie was released in 1974, it created a huge scandal and strong controversies because it was the first movie about the second world war to introduce a collaborator and not a resistant as a main character. Louis Malle was surely affected by these controversies and he decided to escape into the dream and imagination in his next film: the odd and underrated "Black Moon". So the main character here, Lucien Lacombe, is a member of the German police but he didn't choose this situation because he is anti-semitic or he's fond of Nazi thesis. It's simply because he is a victim of his naivety and of his foolishness and he's easy to persuade. Several times in the movie, you are under the impression that he doesn't know what he's doing or saying (for example, when he's drinking champagne with Albert Horn, a Jew tailor and his daughter France). On the other hand, the stroke is responsible of Lucien's entrance in the collaboration: the school teacher doesn't want him to enter the Resistance because he's too young, he had a flat tyre.... Moreover, the action takes place in june 1944 and it's not the right era: it's nearly the end of the war I also noticed that the collaborators were initiating him into several activities (at one moment, one of them is learning him to fire with a browning) without taking care of his opinion. With all these happenings, Lucien's behaviour is changing: he becomes rough, haughty, scornful, takes advantage of his wealthy life and committs a few errors ( Horn is under arrest due to him and he didn't want it to happen). At the end, Pierre Blaise provides a great calibre in his main rôle and thanks to this, the film is strong, powerful and remain one of Malle's best films.
Writers:Louis Malle, Patrick Modiano
Pierre Blaise ... Lucien Lacombe
Aurore Clément ... France Horn
Holger Löwenadler ... Albert Horn, the tailor
Therese Giehse ... Bella Horn
Stéphane Bouy ... Jean-Bernard
Loumi Iacobesco ... Betty Beaulieu
René Bouloc ... Faure
Pierre Decazes ... Aubert
Jean Rougerie ... Tonin, the chief of police
Cécile Ricard ... Marie, the hotel maid
Jacqueline Staup ... Lucienne Chauvelot
Ave Ninchi ... Mme Georges
Pierre Saintons ... Hippolyte, the black collaborator
Gilberte Rivet ... Lucien's mother
Jacques Rispal ... M. Laborit, le propriétaire
Country:France | West Germany | Italy
Language:French | German | English
Release Date:29 September 1974 (USA)
Also Known As:Cognome e nome: Lacombe Lucien
Filming Locations:Figeac, Lot, France