Arriving in a small French town with the intention of casing a bank, taciturn thief Milan is befriended by garrulous former schoolteacher Manesquier, who is about to undergo bypass surgery.
It takes a lot of nous and endeavour to make a film look this effortlessly easy. How else could such an intimate tale work so well in widescreen, or such conversation-driven drama benefit from so restless a camera?
Why else would such contrasting musical motifs for the genial bookman and the cynical crook blend together so harmoniously as their camaraderie warms? And who else but director Patrice Leconte could climax such a laconic storyline with so much melodrama and still make the contrivances seem authentic?
In his seventh collaboration with Leconte, Rochefort delivers another of those mischievous characterisations that evoke as much uncertainty as sympathy. But Johnny Hallyday (the 'French Elvis') surpasses himself in conveying the inner sensitivity of a hardened criminal whose edgy existence has left little room for comfort or trust. It's their unexpected chemistry that binds this melancomic anecdote into a credible whole.
Witty and wistful, often tragic and tense, this is an impeccable example of the value of small-scale cinema.