Picks and Pans Review: Heads or Tails

UPDATED 06/13/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/13/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT

The lesson of this movie is clear: The fine line between a criminal mentality and a cop's mind may be thin indeed. The setting is Bordeaux, one of the most beautiful regions of France, and the plot is simple: Michel Serrault, last seen as the drag show dancer Zaza in La Cage aux Folles, is accused of murdering his wife. She either fell or was pushed from the window of their apartment during one of their endless quarrels. A neighbor, a beautiful television personality (played by the French TV star Dorothée), may be involved, and Serrault has bought two boat tickets to a far-off South Seas island. Enter the rumpled detective, played by veteran French actor Philippe Noiret. He suspects foul play from the beginning, and most of the movie is taken up with a weird cat-and-mouse game between him and the accused. A subplot—a drug bust that almost costs the cop his jod—is a bit confusing, especially a digression into a gay bar. But the movie depends largely on the strength of the performances, and they are beautifully modulated, with Serrault and Noiret playing off each other perfectly. Noiret is the unhappy inspector facing retirement after a spectacularly unsuccessful career; Serrault is the mousy, henpecked husband with the too-long-repressed temper. There is a surprise ending too—the cop has a terrible secret of his own that seems totally appropriate to this moody, rain-soaked portrait of failure and despair. This is just the kind of psychological thriller at which the French are so good. (No rating) (In French with English subtitles)

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