Thursday, April 26, 2007


On Monday I saw two movies at AFI's Slver Theater* in Maryland. I covered the first yesterday.* The second was Fred Zinnemann's Day of the Jackal (1973),* a political thriller based on a bestselling contemporary novel of the same title. The movie realistically fictionalizes France in the Summer of 1963, just after the Algerian war of independence. In reality, this war inspired a militant nationalist movement called the OAS,* which sought to eschew this weakening of empire through judicious application of bombings and assassination aimed primarily at the government of General Charles de Gaulle. After one flamboyant attempt in August 1962, French police uncovered nearly every last member of the OAS, executing ranking officers by firing squad. Or so the history books go. The movie covers this territory in the first few minutes (or less: my scratchy print skipped over all but the last line of the background narrative above). But this fictionalized account goes on to suppose that several leaders of the OAS remain in hiding, their patriotic goal of colonial nationalist terror augmented by a desire for revenge. Lacking resources after the gendarmerie rout of their group, the survivors attain the services of a renowned, nameless British contract killer--he seemingly dubs himself "the Jackal" on the spot--to assassinate de Gaulle. The remaining two-hours-plus running time is devoted to the clever cat-n-cat between the best of the best as pan-national police forces lock wits against a Europe-trotting master killer. Zinnemann's treatment of this material is a revelation of offhand naturalism, glorifying neither the international scope of the story, nor the keen intellects driving it. This results in a documentary-type feel that rather justifies the confusion overheard in the audience as to whether depicted events really took place: it all just seems too plausible to discount. [Cavin]

Then, a 2 sided conversation ensued...

To which Blogger qemuel added:

I have always liked this movie.

Thursday, April 26, 2007 7:38:00 AM  
To which Blogger Mr. Cavin added:

Oh, me too. It is amazing the cultural impact this movie has had: not only do people routinely imagine that it is a docudrama, but "Day of the Jackal technique" has entered our real-world dictionary of investigative jargon to describe the method by which the antagonist goes about faking his identity in the film. Plus, the infamous terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez was nicknamed "Carlos the Jackal" by the press in reference to this title. There is only one little plot point hat bugs be (a high score, frankly, for this type of movie), but I won't get into it here because of the spoiler involved.

Friday, April 27, 2007 2:57:00 PM  

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