In a 1974 film that seems made for 2009, Resnais depicts the downfall of a grandiose swindler, Alexandre Stavisky, and of an even grander swindle, the tout va bien image of prewar Europe as it rotted within. A financial pirate and theatrical entrepreneur, Stavisky manipulated both the surface frivolity and the government corruption. As a closing act, he flooded France with fake vouchers, which closed the banks, started riots, brought down the government. Jean-Paul Belmondo is cunning as the strangely soulful con of whom Colette wrote, “He excelled at having no face.” The film itself is a shimmering crystal reflecting many aspects-political intrigue, finely nuanced period piece, enigmatic character study. At the Claridge in Paris and at Biarritz, with visual echoes of Marienbad, Resnais's signature stylistics are always in play as if to remind us that history has its mysteries, and vice versa.

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