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Film / The Judge and the Assassin

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The Judge and the Assassin (Le Juge et l'Assassin) is a 1976 French film directed by Bertrand Tavernier and starring Philippe Noiret, Michel Galabru, Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Claude Brialy.

In 1893, Sergeant Joseph Bouvier (Galabru) comes back to his hometown, after being declared unfit for service. He harasses Louise, whom he would like to marry, but she rejects his proposals. Finally, he tries to kill her and then to shoot himself, but he survives. He stays in several insane asylums, but is finally released. Then he starts raping and killing young shepherds and shepherdesses. Rousseau (Noiret), a judge, takes an avid interest in this case and tries to identify the assassin.


The Judge and the Assassin provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Bouvier for Louise. She outright rejects his marriage proposal.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Villedieu is a flamboyant dandy. He has no apparent interest in women. He lives with a young male Annamite servant, but he is never explicitly confirmed to be homosexual.
  • Based on a True Story: The film is based on the case of real-life serial killer Joseph Vacher.
  • Bedlam House: Exploited. Bouvier keeps on pretending that the insane asylum of Dole made him crazy. We know that he was already quite crazy before.
  • Bungled Suicide: After shooting at Louise, Bouvier turns his gun on himself, but he survives.
  • Crapsack World: The film shows that France in 1893 was one: the social inequalities were high, anti-Semitism was trendy, colonial wars were ongoing.
  • Crazy Homeless People: Bouvier is a tramp who rapes and murders young shepherds and shepherdesses.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Louis rejects Bouvier's marriage proposals. After shooting at Louise, Bouvier turns his gun on him.
    • Villedieu kills himself in the end.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: After getting Bouvier sentenced to death, Rousseau expects to get some public recognition (like the Legion of Honour for example). He does not get it, so he enters into a far-right movement.
  • Flashback: When Bouvier is in prison, he hears a song about his crimes. Then there is a flashback with Bouvier roaming in the country.
  • The Gay '90s: The story is set in 1893.
  • If I Can't Have You…: When Louise rejects his marriage proposal, Bouvier tries to kill her.
  • Insanity Defense: Bouvier hopes that he will be declared insane and avoid the death penalty. Rousseau pretends to help Bouvier for that, but actually he is determined to convict him.
  • Kick the Dog: Bouvier harasses Louise at the entrance of the church. He proposes to marry her. She rejects him. Bouvier then kicks a dog that was at the entrance of the church.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Rousseau manipulates Bouvier so that he confesses his crimes and then he is declared sane. Bouvier tries to manipulate Rousseau in order to be declared insane, but he fails.
  • The Mistress: Rose, a poor worker, is Rousseau's mistress.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: Joseph Bouvier for real-life serial killer Joseph Vacher. Bouvier and Vacher both mean "cowherd" in French.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The trial and the execution of Bouvier are not showed on screen. Rose tells Louise about the execution.
  • Pædo Hunt: The crimes of Bouvier horrify the population because he raped and killed teenagers. Rousseau mentions that his youngest victim was only 12.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Bouvier covers the walls of his cell with writings and paper clips.
  • Serial Killer: Bouvier rapes and kills 12 young shepherds and shepherdesses in separate incidents.
  • Sexual Extortion:
    • Rose has sex with Rousseau because he gives her money and Rose desperately needs money to support his family, in particular her sick daughter.
    • Villedieu's Annamite servant is implied to be his lover. Villedieu was a judge in Indochina. He sentenced the servant's brother to death. So he might have spared the servant on the condition that he becomes his lover.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the beginning, a conservative priest is shocked that some books are studied in public schools. He names the works of Émile Zola, The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo...
    • Soldiers organize a bonfire of the books by Émile Zola.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Rousseau and his friend Villedieu belong to the establishment. They despise the working class and the tramps. Bouvier, the criminal whom Rousseau tries to convict, is a tramp.
  • The Sociopath: Bouvier has no empathy for his victims. He even says that his fate is worse than theirs. He is a manipulator (depending on the context, he pretends to be a devout person, an anarchist, a madman or a militarist). He is a serial rapist and killer. He has no real relationships (he just wants to own Louise and he uses Rousseau to avoid death penalty). He thinks that he is important and he demands to have his picture in the newspaper.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Bouvier harasses Louise. He follows her everywhere, even in the church.

Alternative Title(s): Le Juge Et Lassassin