Dr. Petiot

Institute History

  • 1991 Sundance Film Festival


Christian de Chalonge has directed a disturbing thriller based on a time story set during the German occupation of France in World War II. Petiot was a charming Parisian physician, a good father and a good husband. He was, at the same Lime, a murderer and a thief, who on the pretext of arranging for the escape of Jews from me Nazis, instead coldly destroyed them and stole their valuables. He succeeded in doing on an individual scale what Hitler accomplished on a massive one, but with out any political or ideological motivation. That he was a madman, a sadistic killer and a sordid profiteer does not really explain how or why he committed his crimes.

Michel Serrault is one of France's most acclaimed stage and screen actors. Since making his film debut in Diabolique in 1954, he has played over a hundred film roles, including his riotous Albin in La Cage aux Folies. His maniacal, perpetual-motion performance dominates the screen. What's truly riveting are the dimension and character he gives to the human monster of Petiot. Chalonge's expressionistic work is "a ghoulish dance macabre," which stylizes history in a manner which reveals the horrendous nature of that era. The color-drained visuals and exotic makeup create a nightmarish effect and, without being graphically shocking, arc tremendously evocative and upsetting. The art direction is strikingly effective and complements the air of unreadily of Petiot's crimes.

That the historical times could generate such human madness, contemporaneous with the Nazi death camps, underscores their brutal reality. But Petiot's actions ultimately are not simply a result of anti-Semitism; the issues they raise question the foundations of civilized society.

Tuesday, January 22 7:00 p.m.
Egyptian Theatre

Wednesday, January 23 10:00 a.m.
Prospector Square Theatre


— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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