Film Comment Selects serves up a double feature of early-1970s French assassin flicks tonight in the Walter Reade Theater. The thrills start at 6:30pm with Jacques Deray’s Los Angeles-set crime noir The Outside Man (Un homme est mort) and continue with Fred Zinnemann’s ruthlessly efficient The Day of the Jackal at 8:30pm.
The Outside Man (1973), starring a possessed Jean-Louis Trintignan, follows the twists, turns and double-crosses of a mixed-up French hitman as he navigates the seedy underbelly of LA's strip bars, lounges, motels and Venice Beach dives. On the run from the LAPD and the minions of two different mob families—including Roy Scheider in one of his first big screen roles—Trintignan’s fish-out-of-water Lucien must form a steamy partnership with foxy femme fatale Ann Margaret who, despite her own ties to the mafia, might be his only way out. Set to Michel Legrand’s booming score, The Outside Man is a gripping thriller.
Zinnemann's underappreciated masterpiece The Day of the Jackal (1973) follows an unnamed assassin played by Edward Fox on a mission to kill French president Charles de Gaulle. Robert Ebert sang its praise in his original Chicago Sun-Times review: "Fred Zinnemann's 'The Day of the Jackal' is one hell of an exciting movie. I wasn't prepared for how good it really is: it's not just a suspense classic, but a beautifully executed example of filmmaking. It's put together like a fine watch. The screenplay meticulously assembles an incredible array of material, and then Zinnemann choreographs it so that the story—complicated as it is—unfolds in almost documentary starkness."
Image courtesy of UNIVERSAL / THE KOBAL COLLECTION.