ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday April 27, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 48
TV Times  

‘Delits Flafrants’: A fascinating confession of French criminals

The French documentary 'Delits Flafrants' showing a snapshot of the lives of fourteen separate individuals who have been caught committing a criminal act in France will be screened at 3.00 pm on Tuesday April 29 and at 6.30 pm on Wednesday April 30 at Alliance Francaise.

Directed by Raymond Depardon, this 1994 documentary reflects on the criminal justice system of contemporary France. In France, criminals caught red-handed are first interviewed by a public prosecutor to determine how to proceed. Of the 86 such interviews Depardon filmed, he shows us 14. Conventional TV fare, except here it's up on the big screen in 35mm 'Scope.

This entertaining and often funny French documentary offers a fascinating glimpse into the minds of 14 petty criminals. In France, a crime suspect can be held up to 48 hours without bail. The suspect's statement will then be recorded by a substitute de procurer. The substitute is responsible for deciding whether to release the suspect or send him or her before a judge.

This film, allows viewers to watch as actual criminals give their explanations or excuses for their recent actions. The interactions between substitute and suspect are at times hilarious, and always fascinating.

Shot from a fixed position with set focus and no cuts the footage is gripping, funny, hair-raising. Depardon is non-manipulative, leaving us free to muse on anything from the officials' archaic fountain pens to the Oliver Hardy associations of those exasperated, appealing looks to camera. Curiously, from the deaf Arab up for petty larceny at the start, to the HIV+ prostitute on a car theft charge at the end, no one seems vicious or even unpleasant, making you wonder by what criteria those other 72 were excluded.

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