Film Review: La Nuit du 12

Film Review: La Nuit du 12
During gorgeously sultry Paris summertime, folks still like to escape the outdoor heat in an air-conditioned cinema. The A/C may contribute to the climate change resulting in record drought and raging forest fires, but the summer film fare takes our minds off that for a couple of hours. Often that fare is as light as a soufflé: farcical comedies and American action-hero fantasies. Personally, I prefer easing into the atmosphere of a dark thriller — but a pure, slick genre film that works as smoothly and powerfully as a Lamborghini. (No heavy social commentary, please.) La Nuit du 12 (literally The Night of the 12th) is surely that, at least for most of its duration. Dominik Moll’s film begins as an expertly tooled police procedural set in Grenoble and environs. A young girl has been burned alive by a hooded maniac as she’s coming home from a party. The scene is graphic, between slasher movie and war-zone video footage, but elegantly, somehow compassionately, filmed. There’s no more grisly violence after that initial sequence (that was more than enough). The scene switches to the police investigating the crime, the plainclothes force called the “PJ”, police judiciaire. At a retirement party for the unit’s commander we see a hand-over of the leadership baton to Yohan Vivès, played by Bastien Bouillon, a 30-something officer. There’s a good deal of male banter and references to les gars (the boys) — one of Moll’s concerns is toxic masculinity in and out of the police. The film impressively depicts the methodical investigation, search for clues about the night of the murder, interviews with persons of interest. There’s also spectacular mountain scenery, beautifully filmed, normally a bugaboo of mine: nice but unnecessary landscape shots in movies partially subsidized by France’s regional governments. But here it’s evocative of the mind-set of the characters: open, craggy, precipitous, twisty like the mountain roads. The night-time cinematography is extraordinary: clean and meticulous, but still atmospheric, evocative, and spooky. The provincial police procedural alone is enough to engross the viewer. But gradually, the director takes us into the psyches of characters caught up in the aftermath of the murder. Clara, the victim, seems to have been an ordinary girl, but also a troubled person attracted to “les bad boys”. Her young set seems to be fecklessly, callously part of a hook-up scene. The people interrogated are not so much Hollywood villainous as genially reptilian. Eventually there are run-ins with more likely suspects (which we feel is why they’re probably not guilty). Still from La Nuit du 12 © Haut et Court

Lead photo credit : La Nuit du 12 © Fanny de Gouville

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Dimitri Keramitas was born and raised in Connecticut, USA, and was educated at the University of Hartford, Sorbonne, and the University of London, and holds degrees in literature and law. He has lived in Paris for years, and directs a training company and translation agency. In addition, he has worked as a film critic for both print and on-line publications, including Bonjour Paris and France Today. He is a contributing editor to Movies in American History. In addition he is an award-winning writer of fiction, whose stories have been published in many literary journals. He is the director of the creative writing program at WICE, a Paris-based organization. He is also a director at the Paris Alumni Network, an organization linking together several hundred professionals, and is the editor of its newletter. The father of two children, Dimitri not only enjoys Paris living but returning to the US regularly and traveling in Europe and elsewhere.