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Les Voleurs Review

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Four narrators guide the audience through the events of what, at the outset, appears to be a pretty standard police procedural drama.

★★★★★

It's no mere coincidence that director Techine ends this complex account of interweaving lives with the sight of a thief doing card tricks, for from the moment we hear a woman scream in the dark, this entire enterprise has been little more than an exercise in cinematic sleight of hand.

Four narrators guide the audience through the events of what, at the outset, appears to be a pretty standard police procedural drama. The first voice we hear belongs to Justin (Julien Riviere), a 10-year-old who has awoken in the night to discover that his father (Didier Bezace) has been killed.

The action then flashes back 12 months to introduce us to the boy's uncle Alex (Auteuil), a cop in a family of crooks, who is involved with Juliette (Cote), a shoplifter in his brother's employ, who counts among her conquests Marie (Deneuve), a philosophy teacher who is unaware of her lover's criminal activities. Further time shifts and disclosures follow until the final game of bluff is played out between Alex and Marie, with Juliette at stake.

This is the work of a nimble-minded filmmaker. Let your concentration flag for a second and you'll lose the thread as Techine deals revelations from all parts of the pack. The director is here out to prove that every picture only tells part of the story.

Yet for all its deceptions, Les Voleurs is merely interesting when it should have been compelling. Techine manipulates his characters with such icy detachment that it's hard to care what happens to any of them. Deneuve responds well to the challenge of playing a less than glamorous lesbian, but Auteuil wears his chip too determinedly on his shoulder.

A technical tour de force perhaps, but as drama, this is emotionally and intellectually sterile.