Caught in the Act

Director Raymond Depardon got permission to film interrogations of suspects arrested in Paris for minor offenses; of the 86 interviews he shot, 14 form the bulk of this 1995 film. The suspects provide a curious subterranean human comedy--from an addict who guilelessly admits that he steals to buy drugs to a graffiti artist who doesn't know why he sprays subway cars to a woman who gives the elaborately nonsensical explanation that she was hot-wiring a car not to steal it but to open the rear door. Visually, the film is best at its most minimal, such as when it shows a series of interrogations of different suspects by the same official in the same room, all from the same camera angle. The repeated two-shot that presents both suspect and interrogator in profile has a monotonous severity, effectively evoking the oppositional aspect of interrogation and the tediousness of the task. The film lacks an original vision, and viewing it can feel more voyeuristic than usual, but the formal repetitions focus one's attention on the character-revealing details of the suspects' appearances: attire, posture, body language.

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