The Great Alibi

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Opens: in France: April 30 (SBS Films, Medusa Film)

"The Great Alibi," the second Agatha Christie adaptation to reach French screens in four months, is not so much as whodunit as a why-make-it. Slickly turned out with a plethora of top acting talent, the movie will do air to middling business at home and abroad, but you have to wonder what its interest was for director Pascal Bonitzer, one of France's best screenwriting talents.

The original 1946 novel, "The Hollow," is a standard Christie country house murder mystery, which Bonitzer transposes from England to France. When handsome psychiatrist Pierre Collier (Lambert Wilson) arrives for the weekend at the home of senator Henri Pages (Pierre Arditi) with his long-suffering wife Claire (Anne Consigny) in tow, he finds himself sharing the premises with two of his mistresses -- one current, the other an ex -- along with Lea Mantovani (Caterina Murino), an old flame who has since become a film star. It's hinted that even Pages's wife Eliane (Miou-Miou) was an earlier conquest.

Naturally, Collier soon ends up dead. Detective inspector Grange (Maurice Benichou) is called in to solve the mystery and most of the subsequent action, including the killer's eventual comeuppance, takes place in Paris. The dialogue is crisp and agreeably waspish, acting is uniformly first-rate and lensing and lighting impeccable. Benichou brings a breath of fresh air to the proceedings, and Arditi and Miou-Miou form an endearingly eccentric couple. "Alibi" passes pleasantly enough, yet there's no satire, little passion and not much real tension.

Cast: Lambert Wilson; Miou-Miou; Pierre Arditi; Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi; Anne Consigny; Mathieu Demy; Caterina Murino; Grange: Maurice Benichou; Marthe: Celine Sallette. Director: Pascal Bonitzer. Screenwriters: Pascal Bonitzer, Jerome Beausejour. Based on the novel by: Agatha Christie. Producer: Said ben Said; Executive director: Sybille Nicolas. Director of photography: Marie Spencer. Production designer: Wouter Zoom. Costume designer: Marielle Robaut. Music: Alexei Aigui. Editor: Monica Coleman. Sales: UGC Distribution. No MPAA rating, running time 93 minutes.
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