Despite having the admittedly remarkable cast of Alain Delon, Ornella Muti, Stephane Audran, Mireille Darc, Maurice Ronet and Klaus Kinski, Georges Lautner’s 1978 thriller Mort d’un Pourri (Death Of A Corrupt Man) isn’t as noteworthy as it might seem. The Cesar nominated film, despite some intriguing and powerful moments, finally falls a bit flat due to an overly convoluted script and some downright odd directorial decisions by Lautner.
Born in Nice in the early part of 1926, Lautner got his start as an Assistant Director and actor in a number of French films throughout the fifties. Graduating to the director’s chair in 1958, Lautner delivered around forty or so features up until the early nineties when he mostly switched to television productions.
Mort d’un Pourri is a political thriller based on a Raf Vallet novel and adapted by talented Michel Audiard. The extremely prolific and Cesar winning Audiard had his work cut out for him adapting Vallet’s complex and cynical tale of a man caught up in a world where everyone is seemingly corrupt and it shows as the final script for Mort d’un Pourri is just too layered for its own good. At nearly two hours, the film is quite exhausting and one can’t help thinking that a more toned down distillation of the novel’s themes might have worked better for the screen.
The Delon produced Mort d’un Pourri is an extremely attractive production thanks to the always noteworthy Henri Decae, who provides some typically wonderful photography here. The Stan Getz performed Phillippe Sarde score is also a thing of beauty and the soundtrack is ultimately more recommended than the film it graces.
The cast is uniformly fine and if the film is finally ultimately disappointing, then it is at least worth a look due to the actors involved with it. Delon dominates the film and is featured in nearly every scene. Just past the height of his beauty in 1978, Delon has begun to take on the sad world-weariness that he play so well throughout the eighties and nineties. He is quite good in this role, although finally it isn’t among his great works, and the Cesar nomination he received for it was well deserved.
Although billed just below Delon in the film, breathtaking Ornella Muti has a surprisingly smaller role in the film and one cant help but wonder what more screen time for her might have done for the production. As always, she is a wonder to watch and looks lovely under the thoughtful lenses of Decae.
The rest of the cast is fine, although some of their work, specifically Kinski, was hurt by some truly atrocious dubbing in the version I saw. Still seeing Alain Delon and Klaus Kinski working together in a few scenes is remarkable.
Mort d’un Pourri is finally damaged the most by the rather flat direction of Lautner, whose work here is competent but never all that inspired (although it should be mentioned that there are some nice visual motifs repeated throughout the picture that I have tried to highlight with the sceenshots here). Honestly, it would have been preferable to have Delon directing the picture himself as it seems fairly obvious he was pulling many of the behind the scenes strings in general. There is a great film somewhere in Mort d’un Pourri, but unfortunately it never comes out and as it is it is just an average entry in the French Crime Thriller genre of the seventies.
Lautner’s film did fairly well in French cinemas in the early part of 78 and it played throughout the year all over the world. It has never, to my knowledge, had a legitimate home video release in America and is currently only available on DVD in Europe. Fans of the genre, Delon and Muti should of course seek it out but it remains a flawed film that could have been something really special.
To view some of the poster designs for this film, please visit my Harry Moseby Confidential.