Family Plot – Rediscovering ‘L’Eté Meurtrier’ / ‘One Deadly Summer’ (France 1983 – 133 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - June 23, 2015
Family Plot – Rediscovering ‘L’Eté Meurtrier’ / ‘One Deadly Summer’ (France 1983 – 133 mins)

Long yet involving, the engrossing and unflinching psychological thriller ‘One Deadly Summer’ is a terrific tale of human emotions and revenge. It’s also one of those rare movies that can linger in the mind long after the credits have rolled.

After moving to a small village in the South of France, beautiful Elle (Isabelle Adjani) is soon turning heads in the community with her free-spirited ways. She catches the eye of a local mechanic known as Pin-Pon (Alain Souchon) who is unaware that Elle is plotting to avenge the rape of her mother 19 years ago by three men, one of whom was Pin-Pon’s father. After her investigation leads her to find out that the three men were in fact innocent, Elle begins to lose her grip on reality, leading to a tragic chain of misunderstandings and the murder of innocent parties.

There have been a number of controversial rape & revenge movies produced over the years, but while most are concerned with a swift retribution, this French offering is more about the offspring taking over the duty of avenger many years later, albeit somewhat mistakenly here. The beautiful and vastly talented Isabelle Adjani gives what may be her best performance here, ranging from child-like innocence to avenging angel. As stunning as her turn in ‘Possession’ (’81) was, I feel that she had more range here, and it deservedly won her the Best Actress Cesar award. French singer Alain Souchon did a fantastic job as Adjani’s gullible boyfriend, and veteran actress Suzanne Flon was also great as Adjani’s deaf aunt. A veteran of over 80 films, I always remember Flon mostly from her small but important role in the brilliant war picture ‘The Train’ (’64).

Director Jean Becker went on to make the similar themed 1995 drama ‘Élisa’ with Vanessa Paradis and Gérard Depardieu, and writer Sébastien Japrisot adapted the absorbing screenplay from his own novel. The photography was by the director’s brother Étienne Becker, and my favourite composer; Georges Delerue provided the winning score.
There are some powerful and strange moments including an uncomfortable breast-feeding scene and a memorable freeze-frame ending which can elicit a cry of “NO” from the viewer! The movie’s not without fault though, as it’s a bit muddled in places and some of Adjani’s actions are rather erratic, although probably befitting her often unstable character.

Still, with its lush countryside scenery and twisty storyline (complete with flashbacks) ‘One Deadly Summer’ is a gripping and intensely powerful tale of obsession, revenge and sanity, with the always watchable Isabelle Adjani on superb form.

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