Fantastic Fest 2012 Review: PARIS BY NIGHT Asks If a Dirty Cop Can Ever Come Clean

Peter Martin, Managing Editor


Everybody knows Captain Weiss, from doormen to bartenders to dancers to musicians to club owners to shadowy underworld figures. He makes his nightly rounds with quiet assurance and understated authority, negotiating deals, solving problems, doing favors, and occasionally receiving envelopes with a good deal of money inside.

Simon Weiss is a veteran vice squad officer, but it's only recently that he's been suspected of corruption. Thus, he's wary of Laurence Dernay, the latest in a long line of drivers who accompany him on his rounds each night. Still, Capt. Weiss carries on with his usual business, speaking very softly and often leaving his gun in the car, reasoning that "not even a moron would shoot an unarmed cop."

Capt. Weiss appears to be unflappable, a chain-smoking, Scotch-drinking force who may pulse with deeper emotions yet always displays a great deal of self-control. His even-handed ways have earned him the begrudging respect of Paris club owners, though it's not surprising that their respect is sprinkled with a fair amount of unspoken resentment.

On this night, Capt. Weiss is especially concerned about a problem his long-time friend Garcia is having with his son -- some trouble about cocaine -- and the attempt by mobster Jo Lindner to place illegal immigrants of his choosing into security jobs at all the clubs in town, thus allowing him to begin squeezing the owners for protection money.

Director Philippe Lefebvre is a veteran of the television business, and Paris By Night (Original title: Une Nuit) resembles a standard police procedural when reduced to the nuts and bolts of its plot mechanics. The storylines quickly get tangled up and are not that easy to follow. Really, though, everything is secondary to the jazzy, fluid, and sleek mood established by Lefebvre.

Capt. Weiss is like a shark, in that he is always moving. He has an appetite for problems, darting in to solve them as quickly and quietly as possible. As the night progresses, he keeps one eye on Dernay, one eye on the smaller fish of the club scene, and a third eye on the big underworld fish that might swallow him whole.

Roschdy Zem is marvellously contained as Capt. Weiss, a lean, efficient engine subtly driving the action. He's complemented by equally captivating cast, especially the performances by Sara Forestier as his driver and Samuel Le Bihan as his longtime friend Garcia.

"Night turns life upside down," Capt. Weiss observes, and Paris By Night posits that vice squad officers patrolling the club beat aren't so different from any other kind of night workers: They just want to go home at the end of their shift.

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