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Thursday, July 30, 2015

THE OUTSIDE MAN 1972

     


    Directed by Jacques Deray this strangely seductive French production (original French title is UN HOMME EST MORT) was shot in Los Angeles and with the exception of the lead it features a cast of familiar American faces. Combing a 70's American crime film vibe with the low key coolness (by way of Jean Pierre Melville) Gallic style production its one of those films that in spite of its stellar cast has fallen off the radar through the years. With its off kilter plot maybe adding to its cult status, its seems like a movie that would be ripe for re-discovery as a cult film .
    French hit man Lucien Bellon (Jean-Louise Trintignant) arrives in Los Angeles to kill an American gangster (film noir staple Ted de Corsia in his last role). Dully carrying out his assignment as the gangsters wife (Angie Dickinson) and son stand mutely by and watch, he returns to his hotel and finds his passport and luggage missing with another hit man (Roy Scheider) gunning for him. The pair then play a cat mouse game through the sun baked seediness of early 70's Los Angeles.
    Along the way Trintignant hooks up with a hardened topless bar manager (played with a tough as nails brassiness by Ann Margaret) as he attempts to navigate through a totally alien world where he doesn't even speak the language. Director Deray uses the city as almost a main character with its endless freeways, concrete lined streets and intrusive modern technology including TV's that drone away in the back ground at every possible moment. The film is reminiscent somewhat of John Boorman's excellent L.A. based neo noir POINT BLANK with its detached protagonist wondering through a cold mechanized world.


    Thom Anderson is his excellent documentary L.A. PLAYS ITSELF calls THE OUTSIDE MAN "the most precise portrait of the city there is". Among the films highlights are a shoot out at a dreary looking Venice Beach, a confrontation at a funeral home with Ted De Corsia's embalmed corpse front and center and Georgia Engel (THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW) who along with her son (Jackie Earle Haley in his first role) are taken hostage by Bellon. Upon its surface the film has a lackadaisical meandering rhythm to its plot as even a car chase is filmed as though its an afterthought with it's characters wondering through the proceedings with little or no dialogue - all of which add to sense of isolation and detachment.
    The entire cast is excellent (this probably Ann Margaret's best role) and Scheider with about five lines of dialogue seems to having a great time with his role. Coming off the previous year's THE FRENCH CONNECTION he gets the central image in the promotional artwork. THE OUTSIDE MAN in available on DVD from MGM through their on demand service, but this really deserves a nice blu-ray release.


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