La machine à découdre  (1985) from ICMS and Carausius

ICMS's notes in white


La machine à découdre is a French movie directed by Jean-Pierre Mocky based on a novel by Gil Brewer. In his low-budget films Mocky usually takes on the hypocrisy in our society, and it isn't any different in this one. The story, set in and around Nice, is about Ralph Enger, a violent and mad doctor, played by Mocky himself, who wants to raise money to build a hospital for children who are victims of war, particularly for blind children, on whom he would perform surgery to restore their eyesight. During his quest he stumbles upon Steff (Peter Semmler), an unemployed man who is trying to sell off his last remaining gun in order to have money to pay the hospital bill for his wife who is about to give birth.  As you may have already guessed our doctor ends up with the gun, drags Steff along against his will, wreaks havoc and deals rather radically with those who refuse to donate money. Add a sleazy and corrupt mayor, probably inspired by now late Jacques Médecin (then the not-too-clean mayor of Nice who went to jail for bribery), and stir in a not very effective police force and you get the usual ingredients for this kind of movie. 

So what makes this one stand out in the crowd? The most salient attribute is that Patricia Barzyk, busty Miss France of 1980, was stark naked or wearing very little for a good deal of her screen time. Barzyk played the role of a would-be opera singer who got dragged along unwillingly by the mad doctor near the beginning of the movie. He took her clothes away in their hotel room so she wouldn't escape. Upon his return he couldn't find her clothes anymore, so she had to cavort in minimalistic attire. 

The movie is terribly underrated in the IMDb at 3.1/10 based on only 11 votes. That might be a correct mark if you haven't understood the double entendres or the layers of meaning, of which there are many. You could even see a metaphor in Miss Barzyk's naked status or the fact that the doc wants to restore people's eyesight. For a movie shot on a shoestring budget it was filmed rather well and the actors all put in laudable performances, not in the least Jean-Pierre Mocky himself. The beautiful scenery of the French Riviera doesn't hurt the eyes, neither does the copious nudity.

I must admit that when I first saw the movie on an old second hand VHS tape last year, I didn't see some of the points Mocky is trying to make. Now that it is available on a beautifully re-mastered anamorphic widescreen DVD I did pick up what the director wanted to say. And that was before I watched the short interview in which he elaborates on the matter some more. It seems that he was inspired by the victims of the civil war in Lebanon back then, but the overall theme is still relevant today. In another short interview a still good-looking Patricia Barzyk, who is now (since this movie?) Mocky's lady-friend, even reveals her birth date (October 28, 1963). It must be the first time I've heard an actress unveil her age and birth date in DVD extras.

DVD info from Amazon France



Patricia Barzyk: naked as a jaybird in hotel room;  as good as naked leaving the hotel room; running with bouncing bare breasts looking for another car; swimming without panties in the swimming pool of a strangely-shaped villa in Théoule-s-Mer, just west of Cannes; boobs pooping out leaving the villa. (In real life the villa is not easy to approach, as a mean-looking security guard is constantly on patrol and doesn't seem very appreciative of passers-by.)

Sophie Moyse: topless on a yacht as a brainless bimbo

Françoise Michaud: bottomless being taken by the mad doctor

Christelle Guelielhi: breasts and hint of pubes fucking with the car dealer behind the counter

Carausius's notes in yellow

I completely agree with ICMS' review of this movie, the title of which literally translates: "The Unsewing Machine" ("unsew" being rare French
slang for "to kill, to slaughter", another, more common expression would be "désouder", "to unsolder").

This film is in my opinion one of Mocky's best, maybe the best with "À mort l'arbitre!", i. e. "Death to the Referee!". The dialogue is at times very funny, in a queer way, with the mad doctor continually saying that he had hard times "in the swamps". (??)

Mocky's political views and aims are sometimes difficult to decipher. He is, as Jean Tulard, our local French authority, writes: "too much of a right-winger not to despise the left, too much to the left not to smash the right".

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a solid C.

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