On November 22nd, 1963; President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX at approximately 12:30pm. Quite possibly everything else about the event can be disputed in such a manner, and I won’t even attempt to confirm one theory or disapprove another. We have had movie after movie about this assassination, taking it in about every angle imaginable. Those movies are not regulated to the United States, either, as other countries have also dabbled in the storytelling of this infamous event. Many times these foreign productions treat it as a fictionalized event set in their own country, but the similarities are often so obvious that it cannot be disputed. Today’s film is I … For Icarus, a French film that explores the controversy behind the assassination of President Marc Jarry, who was killed by Karl Eric Daslow. Attorney General Henri Volney disputes the lone gunman theory, and this is the story of that investigation. That sounds awfully familiar; let’s take a look.
The movie starts out with a simple phrase that essentially reads that this story is true as a I have imagined it from beginning to end. Ennio Morricone’s score is queued up as we launch into the credits. Before I go further, I found it odd that they listed all of the people involved in the making of the film in alphabetical order before the movie even started. That alone runs for several minutes before the movie even starts. Anyway, on with the show.
President Marc Jarry (played by Gabriel Cattand) has been elected for a second term of office, narrowly beating his opponent by 300,000 votes. He is being escorted by the police in a motorcade to the Government Palace. Nearby, Karl Eric Daslow (played by Didier Sauvegrain) walks out of the elevator at an abandoned building. He peers out towards the street below and then waits by a phone, where he receives a call. Daslow only responds “Yes” and “OK” before hanging up the phone. He walks to the room beside him and picks up a long case hidden underneath a grate.
Karl Eric Daslow goes outside to the balcony. He sits down and opens the case. Inside is a semi-automatic rifle, a Winchester Magnum Caliber 338 with a scope. He looks out over the balcony to see the motorcade start to pass by with President Marc Jarry. Daslow readies the high powered rifle. As the motorcade comes to a stop, Jarry rises up in his seat and waves at his supporters. Daslow takes aim and looks down the sight of the rifle. People now are crowding around the motorcade hoping to get close enough to interact with the president. Daslow fires, and nothing happens.
Frantically, Daslow checks the rifle and puts his eye down the sight again to line up a second shot. The man squeezes the trigger, and again no shot is fired. Third time is the charm perhaps; still nothing in response. Daslow finally checks the clip, and there are no bullets. At that moment, President Marc Jarry is shot several times fatally and taken away to the hospital, where he is pronounced dead. People scurry when the shots are fired, and an onlooker goes over to the police, claiming he saw the gunman in the same building where Daslow was.
Daslow realizes that he needs to get out and disappear. He runs for the elevator and gets in, but as it starts to close an unknown person stops the door and enters the cab with Daslow. Pistol shots are fired, and Daslow falls dead. Police would eventually find Karl Eric Daslow’s body with a pistol by his side.
Later on, it was determined that the assassination of President Marc Jarry was carried out by a single gunman, Karl Eric Daslow. They also state that Daslow then committed suicide with a pistol. There was no else involved in this act, and all of this is written up in a report by the Heiniger Committee to be certified and released to the public. However, in order for that report to be certified, it has to be signed by every single member of the committee. All of the members of this committee except one are willing to sign. The holdout is none other than Attorney General Henri Volney (played by Yves Montand). Volney, per the rules of the commission, must now head up his own committee and try to find the truth behind this tragic assassination.
Yves Montand is certainly up to the task here and does a great job of being the figurehead of the committee and commanding his great presence. If it were not someone of Yves Montand’s caliber, the film would simply not work. The supporting cast of characters doesn’t have any true weak spots, and I took a genuine interest in some of the actors, wondering what they did after this film. The actual content of the film goes a little bit further than just a Kennedy assassination simulation, which exceeded my expectations. However, this film deeply suffers from one aspect. The film’s pacing is absolutely brutal.
The film runs over two hours long; no big deal. Plenty of political thrillers run that and much more. But the thing about good political thrillers is that it is a fun ride to the end. Plenty of twists, plenty of turns, and then the climax keeps the viewer riveted to their seat. I … For Icarus isn’t even what I would call a slow burn. The film flat out meanders around from plot point to plot point except for the beginning sequences. Once Montand takes over the committee, it slows to a crawl. Don’t even get me started about the psych evaluation scene that lasts around 15-20 minutes. I guess I get the point, but cut it in half and you still get the same result. It is far from a bad movie, but it did not hold my interest either.
The video is in its original presentation of 1.66:1 widescreen. The video is relatively clean of any major issues and has a fine semblance of grain throughout the picture. This was filmed in the town of Cergy, the northwestern part of Paris. The EDF-GDF tower is actually the place where Daslow tries to shoot President Jarry from. This town was fairly unrecognizable in the late 70’s, since the film did not want to point out any specific reference point. There are a lot of good shots before we switch to things like studying film and discussing conspiracy theories, which are all inside, of course. There are also a few night scenes, and actually none really suffered from being too dark and were well represented here. Overall excellent video considering the age of the film, but nothing spectacular either.
The audio for this one is DTS-HD MA 2.0 in French. Optional subtitles are also provided in English. From the moment Ennio Morricone’s score clicks in, we get a very consistent audio presentation. Dialog sits in the front of the presentation and there were no issues with clarity. There were not any hisses or pops that I could find, or any real problem with the sound. The score is nice (Morricone never disappoints), but I always had issues with how gunfire sounded in this time period. Hollow and flat is the best way I can think of to explain it. Environment sounds are fairly nonexistent as well. It’s faithful to the film, but there is nothing exhilarating that’s going to heighten this track.
- Trailers: I…For Icarus, The Sicilian Clan, The Body of My Enemy, Mille Milliards De Dollars, Illustrious Corpses (The Context), The Widow Couderc, The Eiger Sanction and Three Days of the Condor.
- Audio Commentary featuring Samm Deighan and Rob Skvarla: I have listened to various Samm Deighan commentaries before, with The Day and the Hour and Rio. She is always extremely knowledgeable, but this time since the movie dives way into the political conspiracy pool, she did bring along Rob Skvarla. Rob expands on the conspiracies and finer points of how this compares to the Kennedy assassination. The two of them make for a good pair on this commentary, and neither talks over the other much from what I can tell. Heck, as with Rio, the commentary might be better than the movie itself. One thing near the end of the commentary — Rob spoils The Parallax View, which I know, I know, is 50 years old, but I picked up the Imprint version last year and was going to watch it soon. Oh well, wouldn’t be the first time, I guess.
- NOTE: Included with this release is reversible cover art showing the original movie poster.
As might be expected with this type of movie, it received quite a few nominees for various Cesar Awards (1980) including Best Film, Actor, Screenplay, Music and Production Design. However, it failed to win any of these nominations. To me, it is a solid film but doesn’t really hold my attention, since they show their cards with Daslow all too soon, and we can foretell how the end is going to play out. Obviously, there is a conspiracy afoot, and the thrill is supposed to be in the hunt, but it doesn’t reach out and grab you. Also, I think American audiences are going to be a hard reach to casually pick this one up due to the obvious subject matter. Not to say it is not a good movie; it is however not a movie I would intentionally watch more than once.
The disc has very good video and decent audio along with the usual excellent work from Samm Deighan, who actually has a counterpart for once on this commentary. If you enjoy conspiracy films or just those with director Henri Verneuil, then this is probably already on your radar. After all, this is his most well-known movie. For others, it is a much more difficult sell and probably something reserved for those Kino Winter Wonderland sales (or any other of their fine sales throughout the year). Recommended nevertheless, and enjoy.