(1974)3Tom WienerDirector Bertrand Tavernier's debut is a deceptively modest story about the after-effects of a murder -- a whydunit rather than a whodunit. Descombes (Philippe Noiret) is a shopkeeper with a few friends but no visible family; we soon learn that his wife deserted him years before and he is estranged from Bernard, his grown son. Descombes' well-ordered life, in which he deals with the certainty of mechanical devices that mark time, is immeasurably complicated when he learns that Bernard has murdered a vicious boss who was harassing Bernard's pregnant girlfriend. Bernard has fled without trying to seek shelter with his father. In conversation with Madeleine (Andree Tainsy) the woman who raised Bernard, Descombes answers her observation, "He said that everyone loved you" by noting ruefully, "Only everyone, not him." The story takes its time in reuniting father and son, and even their first meeting is marked by only a few words exchanged. It's clear that Bernard is holding off his father because he can only justify his crime on moral grounds, and Descombes is forced to accept that decision. In a reversal of roles, the police official in charge of the case (Jean Rochefort) tries his best to offer a scenario that will at least shave some time off Bernard's sentence; he comes off like the father who can't stand to see his son spend any more time in prison than necessary. In the end, Descombes has to be satisfied with the experience actually bringing him and his son closer together. During a prison visit, Bernard notes that "It's easier to talk now." Noiret, who went on to appear in a number of Tavernier films, eloquently portrays a man forced to deal with the consequences of living a hemmed-in life. When the media and at least one friend try to turn the murder into a political act, he can't abide the imposition of an agenda on what he understands what was really a personal act of rage by a frustrated young man. The film makes wonderful use of locations in Lyons, suggesting a city that still has the cozy feel of a village.
French film critic Bertrand Tavernier made his directorial debut in The Clockmaker. The title character, played by Tavernier's "alter ego" Philipe Noiret, is benumbed by the nihilistic activities of his son Sylvain Rougerie. Arrested on charges ranging from arson to murder, Rougerie offers the standard-issue explanation: the establishment is full of pigs who deserve to be "offed". Noiret must ask himself if his son's behavior is the result of stifling under the bourgeois lifestyle that Noiret has always championed. The Clockmaker is based on the Georges Simenon story L'Horlonger de Saint-Paul, which was also the French title of this film.