Henri Verneuil – I… comme Icare aka I as in Icarus (1979)

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The president of an unnamed western republic is shot dead at a public event and his supposed assassin is found dead a short while later. An investigation concludes that the president was killed by a lunatic who subsequently shot himself. Only one man disputes this conclusion, a public prosecutor named Henry Volney. Suspecting a cover-up, he takes charge of a new investigation to discover the truth…

Inspired by the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, I… comme Icare is an absorbing but somewhat superficial political thriller, very typical of the neo-polar genre in French cinema of the late 1970s. At a time when the French people were disillusioned with right-wing politics and were increasingly suspicious of the activities of their security services, films like this were very popular, although they naturally helped to fuel the sense of paranoia and mistrust which was rife in the country.
The film was directed by Henri Verneuil , a versatile director who is best known for his bold crime thrillers of the 1960s and 1970s, including the hugely popular Le Clan des Siciliens and Peur sur la ville. I… comme Icare was one of his later thrillers and many regard it as one of his best, probably because it doesn’t rely on action stunts to create an impression.

Yves Montand stars as the film’s central character in a solid performance which is reminiscent of the actor’s earlier appearances in more heavyweight political dramas, such La Guerre est finie (1966) and L’Aveu (1970). The intensity of Montand’s performance in this film is both a blessing and a curse – it makes the film utterly compelling whilst at the same time laying bare the total absurdity of the plot. The film doesn’t really match the quality that Yves Montand brings to it, and this is perhaps its main disappointment.

Despite this, I…comme Icare is a thoroughly watchable film, and provides an almost textbook example in how to construct a suspense thriller with minimal action. It is all the more enjoyable if it is not taken too seriously. Despite the dark plot with its chilling references to Orwellian state control, the film has some pleasing moments of twisted comedy. Ennio Morricone’s spine-tingling music is also worth mentioning, because this plays an important role in building and sustaining the tension throughout the film
© James Travers 2002



Subtitles:English, Spanish