COLCOA Review: ‘THE EAVESDROPPER (LA MÉCANIQUE DE L’OMBRE)’ – The Man Who Transcribed Too Much

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 Courtney Howard // Film Critic

THE EAVESDROPPER, 93 min, NR
Directed by: Thomas Kruithof
Starring: François CluzetDenis PodalydèsSami Bouajila, Simon Abkarian, Alba Rohrwacher

Espionage and paranoia run on high in co-writer director Thomas Kruithof’s THE EAVESDROPPER. The thrilling rivets of this character-driven spy movie are similar to those in THE CONVERSATION, THE GAME, THE PARALLAX VIEW and CHARADE. While the genre underpinnings and inspirations are evident in the material, it’s star François Cluzet (a.k.a. France’s Dustin Hoffman) who proves to be the real MVP. This is an intelligent, efficient 70’s style thriller that weaves an inspired narrative fabric.

Duval (Cluzet, who’s France’s most versatile actor) is an alcoholic auditor whose OCD has gotten the best of him. After a year of sobriety and loneliness from mental burn-out, he takes an unusual job offer by a mysterious employer, Clément (Denis Podalydès, who’s magnificent in his shiftiest role yet). Every day he transcribes cassette tapes of bugged phone calls in an unassuming, unfurnished apartment. He’s not to draw attention to himself, which means no smoking on the job, no leaving the apartment between 9am and 6pm, and no unnecessary movement. Most importantly, he’s to tell no one about his job. Things get sticky for Duval as he begins to recognize details in the calls as current events in the newspapers. Also complicating matters is Gerfault (Simon Abkarian, a.k.a. France’s Armenian Hamish Linklater), a man claiming he’s Duval’s superior who reports to slippery Clément. Life gets more thorny for Duval from there on out as he’s drawn into a web of deception.

Kruithof, along with co-screenwriter Yann Gozlan (who also wrote the Patricia Highsmith knock-off, A PERFECT MAN), channels the best things about the noir-infused spy genre. Steeped in paranoia and steely reserve, THE EAVESDROPPER echoes the aforementioned films, but adds a refreshing, glossy sheen. The deeper the story dives into shadowy political dealings – which, truth be told, could have been about three feet deeper – the better it gets. While the filmmakers hint at a vague romance between Duval and sobriety charge Sarah (Alba Rohrwacher, a.k.a. France’s Mia Wasikowska), it doesn’t drag down the story’s momentum. That said, while her character does add a red herring quality, she also lacks any worthy payoff, used only as a trite and tropey damsel in distress.

François Cluzet in THE EAVESDROPPER. Courtesy of WTFilms.

Jean-Baptiste Beaudoin’s art in cutting a montage is noteworthy. He gives the picture an energy in the way he cuts Duval’s transcription. Though Kruithof doesn’t exactly show Duval typing in an innovative way, Beaudoin’s clean cuts of Duval loading the tape recorder, plugging in the earphones, and hitting stop and rewind adds to the audience’s understanding of the character.  It speaks to the precision of his actions and the compartmentalization of his psyche.

Lending easily to an American remake, THE EAVESDROPPER is a highly engrossing, superficially pleasing political potboiler.

Grade: B

THE EAVESDROPPER (LA MÉCANIQUE DE L’OMBRE) played ColCoa on April 28. It currently has no US Distribution.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.