DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
STAVISKY (director: Alain Resnais; screenwriters: Jorge Semprun/Peter Fernandez; cinematographer: Sacha Vierny; editor: Albert Jurgenson; music: Stephen Sondheim; cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo (Serge Alexandre Stavisky), Charles Boyer (Raoul), Francois Perier (Albert Borelli), Anny Duperey (Arlette), Michael Lonsdale (Docteur Mézy), Claude Rich (Inspecteur Bonny); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alain Belmondo; Cinemation Industries; 1974-France/Italy-in French with English subtitles)

 
"It's a stylishly glowing film, shimmering with both romantic images and haunting visions."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

French director Alain Resnais's ("Last Year in Marienbad"/"Je t'aime, je t'aime") Stavisky is loosely based on a true story from the 1930s about a notorious international financier, a con-man and swindler named Stavisky who was ruined in 1933 and arrested in 1934 for a stock scam but was never brought to trial. The scandal led to great implications for France, and the subsequent death of Stavisky soon after. The screenplay is written by Jorge Semprun (wrote the screenplay for Z) and an uncredited Peter Fernandez. It's an eerie political film that has a chilling effect on the French government and its rampant corruption. It is filmed with great gloss and elegance by Sacha Vierny.

Russian Jew Alexandre Stavisky (Belmondo), the son of a dentist, moved quickly from the world of small-time embezzlers to soon become France's most infamous con artist, this comes after he was given political asylum in France about the same time Trotsky arrived. The film in ways that are often muddled, tries to contrast Trotsky's stay in Paris with his--as that comparison seems forced. Stavisky was an artful swindler who sold worthless bonds and was adept at moving large sums of money, and was able through his great charm to be surrounded by the most influential members of the Parisian industrial and political elite during the early 30s. He inhabited the lavish parlors and grandiose theaters of Paris, playing in the casinos of Biarritz and having beautiful women always at his side. Though there's just more than stock frauds and greed involved, as his eventual fall reveals him to be a pawn in a swindle with political implications to break the Left and move the country closer to Fascism. 

When things fall Stavisky's business friends not only abandon him, but try to make him the scapegoat.

Resnais does a superb job conveying the treacherous atmosphere at the time and the moral decline in values. It's a stylishly glowing film, shimmering with both romantic images and haunting visions. There's also a moving original score by Stephen Sondheim. Veteran thespian Charles Boyer, who plays Stavisky's old aristocratic friend, gives a superb performance in his last good role as his long and noteworthy career winds down.

REVIEWED ON 3/26/2004        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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