"Stavisky..." (1974), directed by Alain Resnais, is a stylish and meticulous period drama based on the life of the notorious financier and embezzler Alexandre Stavisky.
The film stars Jean-Paul Belmondo, who delivers a captivating performance as the charismatic and enigmatic Stavisky, capturing the essence of a man who rose to dizzying heights of fame and fortune through fraudulent means. His charm and flamboyance are palpable, as is the sense of impending doom that follows him throughout the film.
Resnais' direction is elegant, weaving a complex narrative that flits between timelines and perspectives. His non-linear storytelling style may initially disorient viewers, but it effectively mirrors the chaotic and tumultuous life of Stavisky, leaving the audience as beguiled by him as those he duped in his lifetime.
Cinematographer Sacha Vierny deserves mention for his vibrant and lush visuals that perfectly evoke the opulence of 1930s France, helping to underscore the stark contrast between Stavisky's lavish lifestyle and the grim reality of the economic depression affecting the country.
The film also boasts an evocative score by Stephen Sondheim, which accentuates the sense of grandeur and decadence that permeates the film.
In terms of its drawbacks, the film's elaborate narrative structure may be off-putting for some, requiring an active engagement to fully appreciate the extent of Stavisky's machinations. Moreover, some may argue that the film fails to delve deep enough into Stavisky's psychology, leaving him as enigmatic at the end as he is at the beginning.
Nevertheless, "Stavisky..." remains a compelling and visually stunning portrait of one of the most scandalous figures in French history. With its top-notch performances, beautiful cinematography, and an intriguing story, it offers an engaging glimpse into a time of glamour, deceit, and political unrest.