Claude Sautet’s Max et les Ferrailleurs, playing this week at the Gene Siskel Film Center, is a fascinating hybrid of pulpy crime fiction and moral dramas. If you’re looking for more of the same—and haven’t exhausted Claude Chabrol’s massive body of work—I’d recommend Mado, which Sautet made a few years later. The film shares a number of strengths with Max: an impressive lead performance from Michel Piccoli, an engrossing depiction of complex legal procedures, plenty of sex appeal, and a plot that snakes unpredictably from one quiet revelation to another.
Piccoli again plays a lonely, calculating professional who comes to plot a crime, though the similarities end there. Max was cold and emotionally distant; Simon Léotard, as the title character notes, wants to be loved by everyone. A modestly successful investor, Léotard has devoted his life to the family business, enjoying the camaraderie of his partners as well as the respect (and occasional favors) of district judges. He may have only experienced emotional intimacy with high-priced mistresses, but that’s better than nothing, and staying single has given him more time to work.