Don’t Change Hands

Summary : A prominent politician receives a pornographic film featuring her son. To discover the identity of her blackmailers, she hires a private detective.

Critical : Released shortly before the establishment of the X classification (decree of 30/10/1975, then law of 30/12/1975), the political-porn by Paul Vecchiali, co-produced by Jean-François Davy, has undoubtedly confused fans of Women, womenof which he nevertheless takes up most of the performers, by the explicitly pornographic, non-simulated character of the scenes of movies in movie in which the actors ofexhibitionreleased a few days later, on June 25, 1975, but filmed simultaneously.

Don’t change hands is nevertheless pure Vecchiali by this refusal of half measures, this frontal way of approaching sex and juxtaposing genres (film noir, melodrama, musical comedy) without worrying about finding alibis or coating things to better make them pass better.

This crudity, close to that of Fassbinder but more joyful, is accompanied, as always, by a pronounced taste for reversal, of what he himself considered: reversing the cliché with drama.

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Don’t change hands – Vecchiali 1975 – (c) shellac

Indeed, we navigate in the middle of a station novel with this convoluted plot which intertwines, around a nightclub with a name borrowed from Sternberg (the Shanghai Lily), political machinations with obscure stakes and long-planned and finally derisory private revenges.

The film advances in strongly referential territory and multiplies winks and quotations but without falling into self-indulgent parody, introducing the incongruous into the agreed situations by treating them at the foot of the letter and taking a relentlessly realistic look at this totally fake world.

The dialogues, written with Noël Simsolo, are brilliant, tasty, and are part of a tradition of French cinema that Vecchiali is fond of. But it is the imperturbable, antipsychological seriousness of the actors, the way in which they take on the caricature the better to defuse it (Delahaye, with his incredible diction), which gives all their disturbing force to the disarming puns (Don’t change tomorrowor the biettien* She loves Me !Herself ! of Des Grieux/Howard Vernon), to the exchanges of tense pleasantries (that you are fun ; upstart! ; Don’t try to kiss ladies hands ; or This chair suits you so well), to comically out of place or unwelcome phrases (All those deaths! I am leaving), with excessively pathetic tirades (Mado to the colonel: It’s not out of love. It’s not for love anymore) or final (From now on I don’t help anyone anymore. I unmask ; the mother in front of the corpse of her son: He will have pissed me off all his life, this little idiot) or grand-guignolesque theatrical twists (the colonel: Daisy ! Good God ! Where is she ?just before she shot him – because obviously she was already there, behind the window).

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Don’t change hands – Vecchiali 1975 – (c) shellac

The humour, as we can see, is there, and Vecchiali’s staging gives the whole thing the deliberately playful side of a series of circus acts (Everyone in place!): tango accompaniment during the most trying scenes; dead who are left lying around in the corners of the nightclub (I told you to clean up!); Ida-Marguerite (Saviange) throwing darts at the colonel’s photo; the two superb songs by Mona Mour/Heftre; Myriam Mézières as a lesbian private detective in a raincoat and Bogart hat, Ferdinand/Simsolo as a man-object made up like a doll, Bouvet as a terrifying and pathetic transvestite serial-killer.

But joy is always tense, uncomfortable, undermined by furtive emotion (the death of the mime Victor/Marcel Gassouk and the brief homage paid to him by his friend in the taxi), bitterness (Melinda/Mézières spitting at his reflection in a shop window, in the street in the early morning), the very dread, as when the camera moves away from the scene of the murder and crosses the closet to discover the secret room from where Ida, looking inscrutable, listens to the horrible squeaks of the assassin before going to put on a record to cover them.

In short: we have a lot of fun but we do not come out completely unscathed from this strange descent into hell.

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Retrospective Vecchiali 2015

*Biette was assistant director of the film

- Image: Georges Struve

- Set design: Jean-Paul Savignac

- Music: Roland Vincent

- Production: Jean-François Davy – Reverse shot and Unit Three

Don’t Change Hands – Paul Vecchiali – review