With “L.627,” a classic police procedural, France’s formidable Bertrand Tavernier puts his mastery of storytelling to a severe test, yet succeeds triumphantly in involving us completely in a story with virtually no exposition or plot and that takes 145 minutes to tell.
He straightaway plunges us into the grinding everyday existence of a veteran Parisian narcotics cop nicknamed Lulu (Didier Bezace), a quietly dedicated man who becomes part of a small, ill-equipped drug squad headquartered in a cramped prefab structure, a site that speaks volumes about the status of their operation.
On the surface Lulu is like his colleagues, who are good-humored, ordinary-looking, conscientious blue-collar guys. There’s also a feisty woman (Charlotte Kady). Their camaraderie is warm and solid in the face of their hotheaded, lazy and cynical boss (Jean-Paul Comart). As we follow them on the job, enduring stakeouts in a stuffy van, collaring suspects--sometimes brutally--interviewing countless citizens, we gradually learn that Lulu has a beautiful, devoted wife (Cecile Garcia-Fogel) and small daughter who see little of him--and a tender, loving concern for a waif-like young prostitute/junkie (Lara Guirao).
Lulu, in short, is a wonderful guy, and his life unfolds rigorously with Tavernier’s typically acute powers of observation and attention to nuances and details.
“L.627" exudes the vitality and humor so characteristic of the director’s work and glows with its ensemble portrayals. Tavernier’s inspired cinematographer, Alain Choquart, takes us on a distinctly non-tourist trip through Paris’ seamiest, most dangerous areas with their ancient narrow streets. In fact, “L.627,” which takes its name from the French drug law, could be transferred intact to New York City.
Always one to speak his mind in his films, Tavernier is here modestly saluting a decent cop--and thereby such men everywhere--intent upon doing his job despite a demoralizing police bureaucracy and widespread public indifference to the war against drugs. Tavernier, reportedly inspired by a brief brush with drugs experienced by his son Nils (who plays one of the cops), has made one of his best films.
* MPAA rating: Unrated. Times guidelines: It includes scenes of considerable violence and drug-taking.
Didier Bezace: Lucien (Lulu) Marguet
Charlotte Kady: Marie
Cecile: Lara Guirao
Jean-Paul Comart: Dodo
A Kino International release of a Little Bear Films/Les Films Alain Sarde production. Director Bertrand Tavernier. Executive Producer Frederic Bourbulon. Screenplay by Tavernier, Michel Alexandre. Cinematographer Alain Choquart. Editor Ariane Boeglin. Costumes Jacqueline Moreau. Music Philippe Sarde. Production designer Guy-Claude Francois. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.
* In limited release at the Royal, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles. (310) 477-5581.