Review: Ennio Morricone's Score a Highlight of 'The French Conspiracy'

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday September 24, 2021

Yves Boisset's "The French Conspiracy" (a.k.a. "L'Attentat," a.k.a. "The Assassination," a.k.a. "Plot") finally arrives on Blu-ray via a 4K restoration by Kino Lorber, with both the original French cut (which runs a little over two hours) and the dubbed English version (which is 25 minutes shorter). The latter is a reconstruction, but "not an exact representation."

The film is a French-Italian co-production from 1972 loosely based on real events, with a screenplay by Jorge Semprún based on a story by Ben Barzman and Basilio Franchina about a journalist (Jean-Louis Trintignant) being blackmailed by both the CIA and the French Secret Service to take down an exiled Algerian leftist (Gian Maria Volontè), who is about to return to France. The idea is to trick him into appearing on a TV show where he would discuss world events and, instead — well, I don't want to give too much away, plus the plot gets mighty confusing with a bit too many thug players and French big-wigs (including a terrifically horrific Michel Piccoli).

As convoluted as the plot is, it's never enough to make you want to give up, although the first 40 minutes does feature a number of men who look alike walking around a lot and either conspiring or following other men. Stay with it. The suspense ratchets up just as Ennio Morricone's score kicks into high gear.

While the film was based on a series of events that happened in Europe, I couldn't help but think of U.S. President Nixon plotting to rid the world of his left-wing enemies.

Two interesting bits of casting: Roy Scheider, speaking broken French (at least I think it was his voice), appears as an American journo who has an ultimately significant role. Jean Seberg, who would die under questionable circumstances just a few years later, plays Trintignant's significant other, although she only has a few brief scenes.

But it's Volontè and Trintignant's film, and both are perfectly understated in it.

I found it curious that when looking at director Boisset's credits I only recognized a few. He's mostly worked in French TV since the early '80s.

In terms of the versions on the Blu-ray, I'm always on the side of the original cut, but in this case the English cut seems to clear out a lot of the murkiness. Of course, the dubbing is a distraction. Bottom line: It certainly makes for an interesting comparison, and kudos to Kino for its inclusion.

There are no other special features.

"The French Conspiracy" is currently available on Blu-ray.

Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep. Frank is a recipient of a 2019 International Writers Retreat Residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle (Assisi, Italy), a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, a 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and a 2015 NJ State Arts Council Fellowship Award. He is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW, FIG JAM, VATICAN FALLS) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.