Scribe

 

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A drama of today with at least one foot in the past.

 
Scribe

François Cluzet

 

Made in 2016, this Paris-set conspiracy thriller is something of an oddity. It deals with a former insurance clerk, Duval played by François Cluzet, who, being a recovering alcoholic, has been unemployed for some time and has also become a loner consequent on a divorce. In the circumstances he readily takes up a job that is directly offered to him: a man named Clément (Denis Podalydès) who is involved in surveillance work makes contact with him and hires him to transcribe a series of tapes. In past times Duval has been a studious worker, one who, as the film's prologue indicates, has allowed himself to be imposed upon (when we first see him he is working through the night to prepare an urgent dossier). It’s this background that makes him seem fitted to this new well-paid but deeply secret post.

 

The oddity of the piece lies in the fact that, despite the presence of modern technology making it a contemporary tale, the situation that develops is increasingly reminiscent of thrillers of the 1970s (Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View was one of the most famous of them). My reference is to works that seemed intent on proving that the paranoia which was in the air at the time was wholly justified. Here we start off unsure about the legality of the work which Duval has accepted and then find the plot developing through the introduction of other characters such as Duval’s immediate superior (Simon Abkarian) and Major Labarthe of the security forces (Sami Bouajila). How many of these people, not least Clément himself, can really be trusted? That soon becomes the key question as the drama, set off by Grégoire Auger’s music score, builds to a climax that finds those at the top of the political establishment being involved in the corruption.

 

The filmmaker, making his feature debut, is Thomas Kruithof and he has a certain sense of style as witness his use of a muted palette for ’Scope images. Cluzet is faithful to the concept of Duval being less a conventional hero than an innocent out of his depth and, both when he is docile and when he break out into action, the writing is persuasive. However, the character's comparative ordinariness tends to undermine any sense of that truly dangerous edge which marked the comparable works from the 1970s. Scribe does have an admirable supporting performance from Alba Rohrwacher as the only significant female in the story, but in truth it’s not much of a role even if she makes a good deal of it. In short, Scribe is by no means badly made but it has none of the classic qualities of the films it invokes. It’s a modest piece that may pass the time agreeably enough, but it is never more than that.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: François Cluzet, Denis Podalydès, Sami Bouajila, Simon Abkarian, Alba Rohrwacher, Philippe Résimont, Daniel Hanssens.

 

Dir Thomas Kruithof, Pro Thibault Gast and Matthias Weber, Screenplay Thomas Kruithof and Yann Gozlan with Marc Syrigas and Aurélie Valat, Ph Alex Lamarque, Art Dir Thierry François, Ed Jean-Baptiste Beaudoin, Music Grégoire Auger, Costumes Christophe Pidre.

 

24 25 Films/Scope Pictures/RTBF (Télévision belge)/Sabah 5 Productions/Canal+-Arrow Films.
91 mins. France/Belgium. 2016. Rel: 21 July 2017. Cert. 15.