Roberto Succo

Roberto Succo

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Serial killers became sexy with The Silence Of The Lambs and Se7en. In real life, they are unhinged, a menace to society and genuinely dangerous.

Roberto Succo "terrorised the South of France in the early Eighties", which means he killed people at random, stole cars and money, raped women, let others go, shot officers of the law, took their guns.

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He was an Italian in his mid-twenties, who was locked up in a mental institution for stabbing his parents to death. Five years later he was let out on parole. He ran away to France, where he felt free. He changed his name many times.

Cedric Kahn's film ignores the trademark biopic formula. Neither the killer, nor the police detective, is the protagonist. There is no attempt at explanation. Shootings occur that may, or may not, be connected. Mentally disturbed clich├ęs are avoided in favour of scenes that imply irrational and/or violent behaviour, a bit like a kid in a playground who storms off because the others won't stick to his rules.

Vincent Gallo lookalike Stefano Cassetti plays Succo as impulsive, paranoid and quick-tempered. Like an anarchist with a bullhorn, he believes his own rhetoric.

"Death doesn't count," he says. "Life's just a dream."

His relationship with 16-year-old Lea (wonderfully understated performance from Isild Le Besco) is more important to the film than a catalogue of murders. He meets her at a beach bar in a holiday resort and they become friends, possibly lovers. Innocence attracts him and protects her. She doesn't mind his madness. She's in love. Being with him is an adventure.

Slowly, methodically, the police fit the pieces of the jigsaw together, as Succo's hold on reality loosens. He makes mistakes - spares witnesses, kills cops - and crosses the border into Switzerland before returning home.

Kahn's documentary style offers no solutions to the wild card theory of human nature. Psychopaths are said to have limited understanding of right and wrong. Succo lies to reinvent himself in a vain attempt to control the world around him. He can't even control Lea.

He appears neither evil, nor insane. "I can change your hair colour," he tells her. "And we can vanish." He doesn't and they don't.

Finally, he cannot run from the one thing that haunts him - loneliness.

Reviewed on: 06 Jun 2002
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The true story of an Italian serial killer who terrorised the South of France in the early Eighties
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Director: Cedric Kahn

Writer: Cedric Kahn, based on Je Te Tu by Pascale Froment

Starring: Stefano Cassetti, Isild Le Besco, Patrick Dell'Isola, Vincent Deneriaz, Aymeric Chauffert

Year: 2000

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France/Switzerland

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