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  Buffet Froid You Kill Me
Year: 1979
Director: Bertrand Blier
Stars: Gérard Depardieu, Bernard Blier, Jean Carmet, Denise Gence, Marco Perrin, Jean Benguigui, Carole Bouquet, Jean Rougerie, Liliane Rovère, Bernard Crombey, Michel Fortin, Roger Riffard, Nicole Desailly, Pierre Frag, Geneviève Page, Michel Serrault
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: An accountant (Michel Serrault) is sitting alone in the Paris Metro as he awaits his train when a man (Gérard Depardieu) walks down the stairs and sits in the seat directly behind him, then starts craning around to stare at him. The accountant asks him what he thinks he is doing, whereupon the man tells him he's looking at his ear and begins trying to engage him in conversation that the accountant is simply not interested in. Talk gets around to the newcomer wondering if the other chap has ever thought about killing someone, and pulls out his pocket knife, then leaves it on a seat when the accountant grows wary - but they both should have kept their eye on that weapon...

By the time Buffet Froid was released, its writer and director Bertrand Blier had already made a name for himself internationally as a filmmaker who didn't stick by the rules of character behaviour. Everything about this work could have been flmed straight, as a thriller heavy on the paranoia, yet Blier chose not to take that path and instead created something ridiculous, though with a poker face that gave nothing of his intentions away. There is a mistrust of the city landscape, which we always see at night, that the inhabitants of the story wander through, so much so that it appears this urban living is what has turned everyone loopy as if it is not a natural state to be in, yet by the end, when the action relocates to the countryside, there's no less lunacy.

This threatens to become very silly quite often, but Blier was blessed with a cast who knew when to stay as inscrutable as possible to make things run smoothly. Not that things run that smoothly for the characters, with an abundance of murders throughout that lead one to see this as a meditation on the randomness of death, except that death is not really that random as it happens to each and every one of us and it's the people who are difficult to predict, or they are here at any rate. The man in the station is Alphonse Tram, our main character, and he is left behind on the platform when the accountant refuses to let him onto the carriage. But the knife has gone missing, or it has until it shows up elsewhere.

Elsewhere being buried to the hilt in the accountant's belly, which alarms Alphonse because not only will he be implicated in the murder, but this also means there's a killer abroad in the night. He takes the knife back after a brief conversation with the dying man (who implores him to take the contents of his wallet as he doesn't need it anymore), and heads off back to his apartment, which is situated in a tower block that as with most places in this movie, is practically deserted. Indeed, there are only two sequences where we see lots of people, and that when the block is overrun with policemen, and when Alphonse ends up at a musical recital, everywhere else there's an eerie lack of humanity, both emotionally and literally.

Luckily for Alphonse a police Chief Inspector (Bernard Blier, father of the director) has moved in upstairs - why is that lucky? Because his wife has been murdered by a serial killer, not that he appears massively bothered by this other than the inconvenience it offers him, but it does put his nose out of joint somewhat. It's easy to forget how perfect Depardieu was for this kind of absurd effort, as he has a weird kind of integrity in these roles that is half exasperation, half control, at once part of the strangeness and at a remove from it, confounded by the way that those he meets gets him into these situations. As one of those people is the serial killer (Jean Carmet) who murdered his wife (but did he murder the accountant? He says he only targets women), you might expect some kind of revenge to be on the cards, and in a way it is, only not the way you would expect, which sums up Buffet Froid: it sticks to the thriller rules of consequences, but goes about them in a most peculiar manner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Bertrand Blier  (1939 - )

French writer-director who rarely shies away from controversy. The son of actor Bernard Blier, who also appeared in his films, he graduated from documentaries to features and seized international attention with extreme comedy Les Valseuses. Blier then won an Oscar for Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (Preparez vos Mouchoirs), and carried on his idiosyncratically humorous style with Buffet Froid, Beau-Pere, Tenue de Soiree and Trop Belle Pour Toi. Since 1991's Merci la Vie he hasn't had much distribution outside of France, but continues to work, still finding roles for Gerard Depardieu.

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