Romy Schneider) loves Clement (Jean-Louis Trintignant) despite his jealousy, his controlling ways, and his activities as a terrorist. He belongs to the faction that opposed French withdrawal from Algeria, and his group leader Serge assigns him to take out a pro-independence politician. Serge accompanies him on the mission, which is meant to make a statement. The way to do that is to fire a bazooka from across the street and blow up the man's apartment. Clement has the weapon stored in his apartment for a time before the attack. When Anne stumbles upon it, she's troubled by it but not exactly outraged. She's an emotional needy person, perhaps because Clement has curtailed her social life and her career as an aspiring actress. She's willing to share his perils, but Clement's not having that when he can help it. He wants her around when he feels needy but often can't be bothered when the roles are reversed.
Whatever would one do with a bazooka in the middle of Paris? Anne (Romy Schneider) wonders while Clement (Jean-Louis Trintignant, with Pierre Asso below) demonstrates.
I have to admit that Le Combat didn't strike me as anything historically special. The acting is strong and the black-and-white cinematography by Pierre Lhomme is sharp, but the direction looks ordinary now and Cavalier burdens the story with omniscient voiceover narration that didn't seem necessary, though it does help viewers of today understand issues that 1962 French audiences probably took for granted. It's really a fairly melodramatic if not pulpy story told pretty much with a straight face, with a clear bad guy and good guy, though Schneider got the top billing. You probably have to have a sense of cinema history to appreciate Le Combat's place in it, if you can imagine what the same story might have looked like filmed ten years earlier. Without that, I think you could still appreciate Cavalier's feature debut as a modest drama with nice views of urban and rural France and a window into real history and its impact on cinema.
Clement is a trained killer and Paul is a trained civilian, but the terrorist thinks it'll be a fair fight if they use unfamiliar weapons (German pistols) and have equal time to practice.
Before I saw this new DVD from Zeitgeist at the Albany Public Library I hadn't even heard of Alain Cavalier, much less any of his films. The disc comes with some behind-the-scenes photos, a booklet including a new essay by the cinematographer (unfortunately, the library doesn't include booklets like that with its loaner discs) and a new short film by Cavalier which consists of his camera moving across a set of photos and him reminiscing about making the film nearly fifty years ago. One thing I've noticed about the New Wave is that, with the great exception of Truffaut they've mostly been a long-lived bunch, with many, including Cavalier, more or less active today. I guess DVDs guarantee them a little immortality, and for free I was happy to do my part to keep his place in history alive.