Le Petit Lieutenant

on September 08, 2006 by Ed Scheid
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In “Le Petit Lieutenant,” a police thriller becomes a gripping character study of the professional and personal pressures confronting a unit of Parisian detectives. Antoine (Jalil Lespert) has just graduated from the police academy and is excited that he will be assigned to the City of Lights -- cheering, “Paris is mine!” -- even though his wife will remain in the country. He becomes a member of the criminal unit run by Captain Caroline Vaudieu (Nathalie Baye, “The Flower of Evil”), who is recovering from a bout of alcoholism that began when her son died from meningitis. If her child had lived, he would be the same age as the young lieutenant. Vaudieu, who has not had a drop of alcohol in years, attends AA meetings and confides in her friend Judge Clermont (Jacques Perrin).

In preparation for the film, director Xavier Beauvois (“Don't Forget You're Going to Die”), who co-wrote the screenplay, spent several months following a police captain in the field and in the office and was even able to pass as a lieutenant at times. Beauvois has said he gained access to every stage of a police investigation, even the most confidential parts like autopsies, and his experiences bring to the film a realistic sense of the daily details of the criminal unit as they investigate the stabbing of a homeless man. Beauvois, along with Roschdy Zem and Antoine Chappey, also portrays one of the detectives.

Beauvois effectively builds tension, both in the increasingly dangerous murder case and in the reactions of the different police officers. An unexpected event causes Captain Vaudieu to struggle with her previous dependence on alcohol. Backed by a strong supporting cast, Baye, who received the French Cesar for Best Actress, gives a superb performance, poignantly showing Vaudieu's continual anxiety and the depth of her pain. Starring Nathalie Baye, Jalil Lespert, Roschdy Zem, Antoine Chappey and Jacques Perrin. Directed by Xavier Beauvois. Written by Cedric Anger, Xavier Beauvois, Guillaume Breaud and Jean-Eric Troubat. Produced by Pascal Caucheteux. A Cinema Guild release. Crime Drama. French-language; subtitled. Not rated. Running Time: 115 min.

Tags: Jacques Perrin, Nathalie Baye, Jalil Lespert, Roschdy Zem, Antoine Chappey, Xavier Beauvois, Guillaume Breaud, Jean-Eric Troubat, Pascal Caucheteux, A Cinema Guild release, Crime Drama, homeless, investigation, autopsies, police
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