TOUS PEUVENT ME TUER. Da.Ma. Cinematografica / Sofradis, France, 1957. Aka: Anyone Can Kill Me and Everyone Wants to Kill Me. Andre Versini, Anouk Aimee, Peter van Eyck, and some very fine actors whose names would mean nothing to you. Written & directed by Henri Decoin.

   An oddball little movie, part noir, part rom-com, part murder mystery, part prison film—and 100% engrossing.

   The film starts with Tony (Andre Versini) a guy in his 20s working as a street vendor (selling reversible bow ties: perfect for casual or formal wear) while romancing Anouk Aimee, and in some kind of shady deal with Cyril (Peter van Eyck.)

   As is the way of these things, just as the romance is blossoming, the deal comes up: a 5-man jewel heist, filmed with suspense and shadowy lighting worthy of The Asphalt Jungle, interrupted not by the cops, but by casual conversation about love, bicyclists, chauffeurs and taking a leak.

   Then we get one of those bursts of idiot logic that carries you along in a movie till you stop to think about it: In order to give themselves an alibi, the quintet of heisters break into a distillery and get drunk, making enough mess to look like they’ve been there all night. They are duly all sentenced to a year in jail and agree to divvy the loot upon release.

   And then, one by one, separated by months, they begin to die.

   First a fall from a catwalk, then an apparent suicide, an accident with a freight elevator… and as their numbers dwindle, they start looking at each other with increasing suspicion, fear, and finally murderous intent.

   Writer-Director Decoin does a fine job evoking the prison atmosphere while ratcheting up the tension. He also knows when to back off and let his characters breathe a bit. To his credit (and that of the actors) they never seem like cliché figures playing out their roles to move the plot along, but rather like real men in danger, bound by a code of silence that leads them inexorably to a cunning resolution, surprising and beautifully realized, with brutal action, a western-style face-off in a saloon, and a romantic fade-out.

   If there’s any problem with Tous Peuvent, it’s the constantly shifting tone between taut suspense, soulful romance and droll comedy. One is never sure how much to take seriously or when to just sit back and have a laugh. But the comic moments seem to grow naturally out of the characters themselves, and if you can just let the movie happen on its own terms, you’ll get a kick out of it.