Monday, November 9, 2009

The Assassination of Trotsky (1972)

Joseph Losey is not my favourite director. I have seen 2 of his works: this and M. Klein, and both are all gloomy and distressing. The movie is quite slow, with eerie soundtrack. The first attack on Trotsky in this movie, that raid, by men dressed as police, reminded me of a propaganda movie I had to watch when I was in elementary school, and it gave me a sick feeling.

The movie is set in Mexico City, 1940. Trotsky (Richard Burton), the founder of the Red Army and Lenin's first hand, is in exile. Demonstrators fill the street. Gita (Romy Schneider) has suspicion about her lover Frank Jackson (Alain Delon). It's May Day, and yet he says he is going to the bank. Jackson's answers are inconsistent. Who is he? What does he do? Is he Belgian or Canadian? Gita will shudder if she finds out he has secret meetings. She works for Trotsky and Jackson will use her to enter the well-guarded house. He tells Trotsky that he writes an article about France, which he wants Trotsky to look at. While Trotsky peruses the article, Jackson attacks him with an ice axe.

The highlight of this movie is, of course, the assassination scene. [From the title alone, we, from the start, wait for that scene.] The bullfight scene is horrifying, but the assassination is the climax. Different from his usual roles, Delon's Jackson is almost mad. With those John Lennon's glasses, I cannot help thinking of Mark Chapman. Usually Delon plays cool characters, with their code of honour. He kills without blinking. His Jackson is afraid to kill. While Burton's Trotsky is busy reading, he takes the opportunity to take the ice axe out from his coat, gathers all his strength, trembles like mad, closes his eyes, and hit down. Maybe because he closes his eyes, that Trotsky doesn't die instantly. Jackson has missed the target a bit. When he opens his eyes, he almost cannot see the blood, but it will soon flow like river. He cannot even gather his strength to make suicide. He only stands there, leans his back against the railing, with his hand on his gun. When Trotsky's guards attack him, he cries. I wonder if Delon himself made those horrible cries. Gita is sent to prison, too, perhaps because Jackson grasses on her. According to this movie, she is innocent. Obviously she falls in love with the wrong person. We can see how Gita is getting more and more miserable throughout the movie. This is the 2nd collaboration of Alain Delon - Romy Schneider, 4 years after La Piscine.

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