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The Night of the 12th: Baguettes and Brie Won’t Solve a Mystery

Posted by May 16th, 2023 1 Comment »

The Night of the 12th (2022)
Directed by Dominik Moll
Starring Bastien Bouillon, Bouli Lanners and Anouk Grinberg

By Peter Cameron

As viewed at the 49th Annual Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)

I love a good police procedural. The crime, the crime scene, the yellow tape and evidence bags—I’m down. I never got into CSI, but I’m certainly a fan of this genre of film. If it’s based on true events, even better. Dominik Moll’s The Night of the 12th is all of this, and French, but I didn’t get into it as much as I maybe should have. Let me explain.

The Night of the 12th, like all good police procedurals, begins with the crime. I won’t say what happens, but it is startling. Once the crime has been committed, the procedures begin. Cops show up, put on full hazmat suits (is that a French thing?), and collect evidence. From there, the detectives (and the audience) begin to piece together a story about what happened.

This film is quite thorough in its depiction of procedural practices. We watch officers typing up paperwork, standing next to maps with lots of pins in them, and listening to wiretaps. A lot of wiretaps. Is it that easy to access the private conversations of citizens in America? Or is that a French thing?

Moll dunks these police procedural elements in a nice Aus jus. Instead of donuts, the officers share baguettes and brie. And instead of a gritty city backdrop, The Night of the 12th is tucked away in the foothills of the gorgeous Alps—the French side. The mountains add an unexpected tone to the investigation of a brutal, inexplicable murder. It’s as though the mountains represent a silence that surrounds unsolved mysteries.

That’s the other aspect of police procedurals that I like: unsolved mysteries. They are a great metaphor for life. The mountains know it, and that’s why they’re silent. No matter how deep the detectives dig, the clues never quite match up. There’s always a gap in the information. Same with life. That gap, as well as the dark side of human nature that gets exposed as the audience learns more and more about the possible murderer, makes police procedurals a metaphorical gold mine for the human condition.

My issue with The Night of the 12th is twofold: lead actor Bastien Bouillon didn’t draw me in with his performance and the soundtrack was awkward. Bouillon is a very talented actor, but his portrayal of Yohan, for whatever reason, just didn’t draw me into his world and allow me to empathize with his struggle. Was he too baby-faced? Was it his haircut? Maybe it was the direction? Or was I just not into the character himself? I can’t say for sure, but it just didn’t work. And without that anchor, the story and its resolution didn’t carry enough impact.

The other issue was the soundtrack. Voices that sounded like toy trains over folk-guitar vibes were entirely out of place in this film. Moll should’ve gone with the brooding cello vibe – works every time.

That said, this is a very well-made film and a good story. The cinematography is top notch, (I will one day visit the Alps), the editing is low-key brilliant, and the production is on point. I liked and appreciated this film. If those two points I mentioned had been more dialed in, I would’ve LOVED it.

On my rating scale, The Night of the 12th is a solid CINEMA.

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