Saturday, January 24, 2009

Jacques Mesrine Meets César

As you know, the French criminal underworld is different. You know you're in a bad neighborhood in France because there are young hoods hanging out on the street in last year's fashions. And, if you're on a block without any pâtisseries, run! And then there's the seediest part of the French crime syndicate- underground poodle fights. In some neighborhoods, many a basement is nearly filled with bloody clumps of billowing, cottony white fur. In some of them, it looks like Bea Arthur's head exploded.

One standout in terms of French crime was Jacques Mesrine, a voyou whose career puts most other criminals in the shade. After a stint in the French Army in the Algerian War, he turned to crime. He was first arrested in France in 1962 before a major bank robbery, released, worked briefly, then arrested in Spain for robbery, and released. He tried to open a restaurant in the Canary Islands, but soon turned to robbing hotels. He then fled to Canada, where he tried kidnapping, failed at that, and then fled to the US, where he was arrested and sent back to Canada. He then broke out of prison and started robbing banks in Montreal. He also killed some park rangers there. I should also note that, for all these failures, he succeeded in an impressive number of robberies, and actually prefered to rob two banks per day.

Mesrine fled to Venezuela in 1972, and then to Canada, and then back to France in the same year, where he returned to robbing banks. In 1973, he was arrested, but fled the court during sentencing, taking a judge hostage. He was finally arrested in 1974, and had time to write an autobiography, L'Instinct de Mort, before escaping jail in 1978. After he kidnapped the millionaire Henri Lelièvre, collecting 6 million francs, Mesrine became Public Enemy No. 1, and lived in hiding, while still finding time to give interviews to the press. Finally, in Nov. 1979, the police killed him at the Porte de Clignancourt outside of Paris, firing something like 19 rounds through his windshield.

If all of this sounds like it should be a movie, it's been released last year as two movies: Mesrine 1: L'instinct de mort and Mesrine 2: L'Ennemi public n°1. Here's the site, and you'll notice that the films look like a French version of a Scorcese epic. Also, it looks really good. Anyway, the César 2009 nominations have come out recently. The Césars are just like the Oscars, although the statue, you'll notice here, looks like a gold-plated turd. Anyway, this year the most honored film, in terms of nominations, is the 2-part Mesrine biopic. So, old Jacques might just pull off one last heist.


Holly said...

Arrested BEFORE a bank robbery? Well, christ, no wonder he was sour!

By the way, your link to the gold plated turd is 404'd (not found).

Rufus said...

Oh, he'd already robbed a number of banks by that point- sort of a seasoned veteran. But, they just got him in the planning stage, so I think he got about 18 months.

I think I've fixed the link.