7/5/00 - Variety May 8, 2000 - May 14, 2000 SECTION: FILM REVIEWS; Pg. 54


(FRANCE) A Pathe Distribution a Les Films Alain Sarde production. (International sales: Le Studio Canal Plus, Paris.) Produced by Alain Sarde. Executive producer, Christine Gozlan. 

Directed, written by Alain Berberian, based on the novel "Six-Pack" by Jean-Hugues Oppel. Camera (color, widescreen), Jean-Francois Robin; editor, Catherine Renault; music, Elia Cmiral ; art director, Carlos Conti; costume designer, Veronique Perier; sound (Dolby), Pierre Lenoir. Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite Les Halles, Paris, April 25, 2000. Running time: 105 MIN.

With: Richard Anconina, Frederic Diefenthal, Chiara Mastroianni, Bernard Fresson, Jonathan Firth, Francois Berleand, Jean-Claude Dauphin, Frank Moore, Carole Richert, Betty Bomonde. (French & English dialogue) 

A Gallic thriller-cum-police procedural drama centering on a serial killer, "Six-Pack" is a serious misfire that demonstrates how tricky it can be for French filmmakers to break out of their "approved" genres of comedies, costumers and auteurist art pix. 

Scripter-helmer Alain Berberian, who directed the ZAZ-like "Fear City: A Family-Style Comedy" (1994), about a murderer at the Cannes fest, claims to have made all of his artistic and narrative choices so as to avoid producing a Hollywood clone. He's ended up, however, with an earnest widescreen thriller so clumsy and derivative that it's often inadvertently funny.

Based on the notions that 90% of documented serial killers are American and that France has never had a textbook psychopath to call its own, the pic gets off to an intriguing start as a handsome young man (Jonathan Firth) wordlessly lures a woman from an urban fairground to the deserted banks of the Seine where he manually eviscerates her via her nether regions.

For old-school detective Nathan (Richard Anconina) and his tech-savvy young partner, Philippe Saule (Frederic Diefenthal, from "Taxi" and "Taxi 2"), this is the fifth grisly murder by an audacious and clever killer. They have a hunch the perpetrator may be a certain Douglas Foster Blade, who holds a sensitive post at the American Embassy in Paris chaperoning Franco-U.S. trade talks.

At the suggestion of a friend (Bernard Fresson), who runs a crime-themed bookstore, Nathan goes to Chicago to meet an ex-cop who collared "Daddy Harry," a cordial sicko who killed nine pregnant women and gave their dead fetuses a happy home in his nursery. Nathan returns to France convinced that Blade is his man, because he seems so normal and respectable.

"Americans have a strange sense of humor," exclaims Nathan's boss (Francois Berleand). "It's not bad enough they flood us with their TV shows and lousy hamburgers. Now they're exporting their murderers!" Nathan asks his superiors to lift Blade's diplomatic immunity; instead, he's thrown off the case and suspended from the force.

In his extensive free time, Nathan convinces fellow cop Marine (a sober, dignified Chiara Mastroianni) to pose as a likely candidate for victim No. 6. Her cover includes bowling alone at a local alley for nearly three months. But the night she bowls a perfect game, things go horribly wrong.

Adapted from a French novel, this is one of those arbitrarily-plotted tales in which a seasoned cop has a hunch, is removed from the case, but won't give up because now it's personal. Thesps act up a storm but are frequently hampered by an unrealistic tone that falls short of controlled stylization. Though cynical and sometimes pleasingly moody, the film is rarely convincing.

Berberian says he wanted an overblown musical score and that's what he gets. 

Thriller, France, 1999, 110 minutes. Release January 26, 2000 


For some time a serial killer nicknamed "Six-pack" has been making victims all throughout Paris, leaving behind the most horrifying corpses. Nathan, a brilliant policeman, noted for his persistence as well as for the "bit of devil" in him, launches in pursuit with the help of his partner, young Philippe Saule. When he finally discovers the true identity of Blade, the serial killer (Jon Firth), and the scandalous diplomatic immunity he enjoys, Nathan does not hesitate to go beyond his jurisdiction to trap him. He then uses young Marine as bait to lure the assassin in a trap... 


Having directed comedies beginning with "Les Nuls", Alain Berbérian indulges his passion for film noir with "Six-pack." Even though he debuted in 1989 as co-producer for the humorous program Les Nuls produced for CANAL + and continued in the comedic genre with "La Cité de la peur, une comédie familiale" in 1994 and the comedy of manners "Paparazzi" in 1998, Alain Berbérian is not exclusively attached to this cinematic genre. Indeed he has a great passion for the French film noir, the true passion of a film lover which he wishes to resurrect with "Six-pack.": " I have always had a penchant for film noir, thrillers, suspense. My first love at the movies was of course Hitchcock, but also Henri-Georges Clouzotís "Les Diaboliques" (Diabolique), "Plein Soleil (Purple Noon) and "Les Félins" by René Clément, an undervalued director in French cinema..." (Alain Berbérian) 


As a self-proclaimed heir of American serial killer films, Alain Berbérian dusts off the French-style police film. Adapting to the reality of the French police the serial killer film which has been back in fashion in American cinema with "Summer of Sam", "Resurrection" and "Bone Collector", Alain Berbérian wishes to stick close to reality by modernizing the policemenís image as well as the killerís: "I wanted to get away from the French-style police film with its shabby police stations where they have never seen a computer! The police is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, there are extremely efficient ways to identify suspects... In films, killers always look like villains. A serial killer may be anyone. I wanted to stick to this reality and not make him into a monster living in a cavern." (Alain Berbérian) 


Alain Berbérian draws his inspiration from reality as well as from novels portraying serial killers. While basing his own script on an adaptation of a novel by Jean-Hugues Oppel, "Six-pack" Alain Berbérian is also inspired by real observations he made in the field ó he therefore recreates faithfully the Police Scientifique department (forensics)- as well as by elements uncovered through research and borrowed from literary incarnations of the serial killers phenomenon: "For the character of Blade, "Six-pack", I was inspired by a book, "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis, where the serial killer is a kind of golden boy who works on Wall Street... Blade works in an embassy, outwardly he is quite normal..." (Alain Berbérian) 


Writing the script for "Six-pack", Alain Berbérian holds "electro-shocks" in reserve to sustain tension in the public. While transposing Jean-Hughes Oppelís novel for the screen, Alain Berbérian modifies the material to insure his film has a sustained rhythm while reinforcing the malaise provoked by "Six-pack", the serial killer: "To hold a rhythm for an hour and fifty minutes, certain passages have to be cut and new electro-shocks invented... for example there is the nightmare scene which did not exist in the novel and whose role is essential visually. I wanted to make concrete the malaise, the horror Nathan feels when confronted with a serial killer..." (Alain Berbérian) 


During filming, Alain Berbérian chops away scenes he judges useless or too incredible for the psychology of policeman Nathan. Filming "Six-pack", Alain Berbérian does not hesitate to modify his script to stick closely to the psychology of his characters while getting rid of the stereotypical scenes of the traditional police film: "The film relies essentially on Nathanís obsession to catch the killer. He feels responsible for the death of each new victim. It is a state of emergency and therefore there is no time to make friends or fall in love. My obsession during filming was never to relax this tension launched at the beginning. I did away with all the scenes that I did not feel like seeing or that I had already seen somewhere else..." (Alain Berbérian) 


Richard Anconina is fascinated by the rarity of a serial killer film in the French cinematic landscape. Actor discovered in 1983 next to Coluche in "Tchao Pantin", Richard Anconina has a wide range as an actor, a range he displays be it in popular comedy (from "Itinéraire díun enfant gaté" to "Verité si je mens") or in French cinema díauteur (from Maurice Pialatís "Police" to Jacques Doillonís "Petit criminel"). With "Six-pack" he takes on the serial killer film, a genre which has been marginalized in French cinema and therefore fascinates him: "I love the cinema, I love all genres. Film noir, comedy, romantic comedy, adventure film and psychological drama.... A script about a serial killer is not frequent in the French cinematic landscape. It is a very specific genre with basic ingredients that cannot be overlooked: a murderer, cops, car chases, a manhunt." (Richard Anconina) 


Frédéric Diefenthal reenlists by playing a young policeman for the cinema. Used to playing in partner films such as the action comedy "Taxi" where he shares the bill with Samy Nacéri or the romantic comedy "Je veux tout" where he plays opposite Elsa Zylberstein, Frédéric Diefenthal accepts again to play a policeman, this time he is paired with Richard Anconina to participate in the adventure of a thriller "made in France": "While talking to me about his project, Alain Berbérian was insisting a lot on the concept of "thriller", he wanted to hear nothing about a simple "polar" (police movie). He wanted to go all the way into this very particular genre... Alain really infected me with his rare enthusiasm for this project because after "Taxi" and the series "Le juge est une femme", I was hesitating in playing a cop again..." (Frédéric Diefenthal) 


After a faultless career in international cinema díauteur, Chiara Mastroianni is launching into the genre cinema. Daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni, Chiara Mastroianni becomes the Egeria of the young French cinema díauteur (Xavier Beauvoisí "Níoublie pas que tu vas mourir", Arnaud Desplechinís "Comment je me suis disputé", Laetitia Massonís "A vendre") all the while playing for prestigious international directors, American Robert Altman ("Pret à porter"), Chilean Raul Ruiz ("Trois vies et une seule mort", "Le Temps retrouvé") or Portuguese Manoel de Oliveira ("La Lettre"). With "Six-pack", the actress decides to plunge into genre cinema: "I come from a more intimist kind of cinema, it seemed like fun to go on a roller coaster ride, to go into a completely different genre, a cinema purely for entertainment... I like films noirs, I still watch them even if, strangely enough, the genre has disappeared in France. I like police stories, James Elroy for example in "Dahlia Noir", but it is especially Truman Capoteís "De Sang Froid" ("In Cold Blood") which has impressed me the most...." (Chiara Mastroianni)


Alain Berbérian commissions the music for "Six-pack" in the US from "Roninís" composer. Charmed by Elia Cmiralís 1998 score for "Ronin", John Frankenheimerís action film with Robert de Niro, Alain Berbérian begins from Paris a long distance collaboration with the American composer based in Los Angeles, a fact which allows him great artistic freedom. He asks him however to temper the hard atmosphere of his film by giving musical individuality to each of his characters: "In recent American thrillers, music often intrudes as if with hammer blows supposed to give rhythm to the film. Quite to the contrary I was seeking a composer capable of creating a universe of sound which would color and sustain the tension provoked by visual images, but which would also provide a melody for the charactersí moods. Elia Cmiral perfectly achieved the hard , tense and violent aspect which fits the visual images, with part melody and emotion besides." (Alain Berbérian) 


With "Six-Pack", Alain Berbérian seeks only to exploit in a dramatic mode the theme which has already appeared in his previous films. Great lover of suspense, Alain Berbérian paradoxically makes his debut in comedy thanks to this passion which attracts the attention of Les Nuls. In his comedies for the cinema, "La Cité de la peur, une comédie familiale" (1994) and "Paparazzi" (1998), the director integrates elements of the thriller by portraying characters hunting down others: "Les Nuls chose me because of my taste for this genre, they did not want just a director of comedies.... There already was a serial killer in "La Cité de la peur"! As for the paparazzi, they are also hunters who track down their preys." (Alain Berbérian) 

RELEASE Date for release in French theaters Wednesday, April 26, 2000 

Translated by Françoise