Picks and Pans Review: L'étoile Du Nord

updated 09/05/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/05/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

A rich Egyptian businessman is murdered on a train from Brussels to Paris. There is a likely suspect: Philippe (Coup de Torchon) Noiret, who plays a money-hungry drifter. He's wonderfully cast, with his hangdog looks and big, slovenly body. He looks like a killer. He has a motive, too—he's infatuated with the Egyptian's mistress. About halfway through, however, the film shifts focus entirely—-Noiret, on the run as headlines scream out news of the crime, takes refuge in a Brussels boarding house run by the mistress' mother, Simone Signoret. Noiret is the perfect guest—charming and affable while trying to buy time until the police get off his back. Signoret, who now specializes in playing older, world-weary women, falls in love with the mysterious stranger; their delicate flirtation, always done from a distance, is a wonder. Only actors with the grace and restraint of Noiret and Signoret could have pulled it off. Fanny Cottençon, who plays the beautiful mistress and less-than- dutiful daughter, sets off sparks, too. The film, directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre, was adapted from one of those quirky mystery novels by French author Georges Simenon. It's an ideal 101-minute diversion. (In French with English subtitles) (PG)

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