Picks and Pans Review: Lapassante

updated 09/19/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/19/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Romy Schneider's last film may not have been her best, but it's certainly a fond look back at one of Europe's most elegant and talented movie stars. Schneider, who was born in Austria, died last year after a lengthy illness. She had also been despondent over the accidental death of her son, David, in July 1981. This, her 60th film, was a project she developed herself—the title means "The Passerby." The movie begins with Schneider greeting her businessman-husband (Michel Piccoli) on his return to France from a trip overseas. As chairman of an international amnesty group, he spends much of his time trying to persuade repressive governments to treat political prisoners more humanely. While in Paris he discovers that an old Nazi nemesis is also there, masquerading as a Paraguayan embassy official. Overcome with rage, Piccoli kills him—and the film then becomes a series of scenes from his trial intercut with flashbacks of what made him do it. The flashbacks show Piccoli as a boy in Berlin in 1933, just as Hitler was coming to power. Piccoli's father is murdered by the Nazis in a horrifying street scene, and the boy's legs are broken in the attack. Later his foster parents are also hounded and finally killed by Hitler's dreaded storm troopers. Schneider plays two parts, one as Piccoli's wife who faithfully attends his trial, and the other as the foster mother. Her dual role is disconcerting at first, and the storytelling is a bit clunky—the murder of the ex-Nazi comes almost too soon in the story. But once the movie settles down, it gathers emotional intensity and becomes a moving testament to those still scarred by Hitler's nightmare, as well as a moving farewell from Romy Schneider. (In French, with English subtitles; not rated)

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