Les Assassins De L’Ordre; Law Breakers

2774. LES ASSASSINS DE L’ORDRE (Lawbreakers) (1971-France) COLOR. With JACQUES BREL, CHARLES DENNER, MICHEL LONSDALE. This provocative and mind- massaging police/courtroom drama is as shattering and as timely as today’s headlines. It begins with a married couple in bed. They are awakened by a pounding on their door. A voice identifies himself as “police.” Two cops enter the dwelling and promptly haul away the man. His name is Sogeat, and he is accused of crackingt the safe at the garage where he works. At the police station, the cops are joined in their interrogation by their commander. Several hours later, Sogeafs corpse is delivered to his widow! Into the scenario comes Judge Level, a tough and idealistic magistrate who is looking forward to a well-earned skiing vacation. However, this holiday will have to be postponed, as Sogeat’s widow has filed a complaint regarding his death and the judge is ordered to conduct an investigation. The police have no explanation as to how their prisoner ended up dead. “We didn’t touch one hair on his head,” they claim in unison. “Word of honor.” Nonetheless, all evidence points to their misconduct. The autopsy report has it that Sogeat had been beaten to a pulp. Then, Sogeat’s widow is threatened by the two officers who had arrested her husband. What follows is a complex story involving missing and surprise witnesses, student protests and the planting of evidence. At one point, Level tellingly observes that he is a participant in a “game with no rules. Even for the referee.” The film is extremely effective as a morality play that reflects on the eternal quest for truth and justice and the merits of honesty versus loyalty. Polish-born, French-reared actor Charles Denner offers a riveting performance as the slick and overly theatrical lawyer who defends the accused in court. In French with English subtitles. 107 minutes. Drama