Flic Story

Flic Story French: Il était une fois un flic is a French crime thriller[2] released on October 1, 1975, based on the autobiography of the same name written by French police detective Roger Borniche. Both film and book portray Borniche's nine-year pursuit of French gangster and murderer Emile Buisson, who was executed on February 28, 1956.[3] Directed by Jacques Deray, the film stars Alain Delon and Jean-Louis Trintignant as Borniche and Buisson respectively, supported by Claudine Auger[4] and André Pousse.

Flic Story
Original movie poster, featuring Delon and Trintignant
Directed byJacques Deray
Produced byAlain Delon
Written byRoger Borniche (autobiography)
Alphonse Boudard
StarringAlain Delon, Jean-Louis Trintignant
Music byClaude Bolling
CinematographyJean-Jacques Tarbès
Edited byHenri Lanoë
Distributed byAdel Productions
Lira Films
Mondial Televisione Film
Release date
FranceOctober 1, 1975
West GermanyNovember 14, 1975
FinlandJanuary 16, 1976
East GermanyApril 8, 1977
Running time
Box office1,970,875 admissions (France)[1]


Flic Story follows a nine-year pursuit of Emile Buisson through France during the 1940s and 1950s, and illustrates the pursuit as a battle of intellect, focusing on a growing rapport between Buisson and the protagonist Borniche.[3] Deray's humanizing of the characters was a trait used in his other films, and was a popular counter-cliché concept in France during the 1970s.[3]

The film story depicts Emile Buisson, following the death of his wife and child, escaping from a psychiatric institution in 1947 and returning to Paris. Buisson, who three years later would become France's public enemy number one, begins a murderous rampage through the French capital. The opening scene shows reluctant detective (flic is the French slang equivalent of "cop" in English) Borniche, who is given the case and pursues Buisson for three years,[2][5] while the latter evades capture by killing informants and anyone else he feels may give him away.[6] Borniche, who unlike his colleagues, prides himself in a methodical approach, hunts Buisson through numerous alleyway chases, rooftop pursuits, car chases and gunfights, while putting his lover Catherine (Auger) in danger.[2][7]

When bureaucracy intervenes with Borniche's attempts, and politicians and the media begin speculating,[2] he uses the assistance of another criminal, Paul Robier (Crauchet) to apprehend Buisson. The serial killer is finally captured after having committed over 30 murders and 100 robberies.[8] The final sequences sees Buisson telling Borniche that he would like to "take a hacksaw" to the throat of his informer, prompting a critically lauded line from Borniche that he would not get the chance.[6]


Writers Bénédicte Kermadec and Alphonse Boudard worked with Deray on Roger Borniche's memoir in order to create the script. The film was produced by Delon, featuring cinematography by Jean-Jacques Tarbès and an original score by Claude Bolling.[9] The film was shot and printed on 35 mm negative using spherical cinematographic processes, as was common with films produced through the 1950s to the early 1990s.[10] Production began on February 3, 1975, 18 years after Boisson's execution, and the film was shot on locations in both France and Italy.[5]

Foreign releasesEdit

Flic Story was released through 1975 to 1977 in the United States as Cop Story, Finland as Passi ruumishuoneelle and West Germany as Der Bulle und der Killer or Flic Story - Duell in sechs Runden. The film rated '16' in Finland, Norway and West Germany, the latter downgraded it to '12' following the reunification.[11]


Flic Story received mainly positive reviews from critics. James Travers of Film de France praised the film for a "quality feel and sombre mood" and the lead actors for "humanity and depth". Travers also noted several similarities to the films of Jean-Pierre Melville, particularly Le Samourai. Travers names the film as one of Deray's best, although the "end result isn’t quite a masterpiece".[7] Other internet reviews noted similarities with Melville, and complimented the film for "unsentimental verve, intelligent pacing and refreshing honesty".[2]

Susan Hayward, author of French National Cinema, also complimented the film, saying it departed from mainstream style. She gave particular praise on the differences between Flic Story and American films of the same genre, by the way Deray focuses on the intellects rather than the brawn of the two leading characters, as well as the understanding that grows between the two during "months of interrogation".[3]

Gary Giddins, printing his review from the August 16, 2005 issue of The New York Sun, praised the film as "the most interesting and resonant" of Derays work, and gave particular credit to Trintignant's "hair-trigger" performance. He also complimented the detail in the secondary characters, and said it was honest in its support for the death penalty. Giddens also, however, criticised the film's pacing.[6]



  1. ^ Box office information for film at Box Office Story
  2. ^ a b c d e Flic Story Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine at FilmSpot Archived 2007-08-10 at the Wayback Machine retrieved July 30, 2007
  3. ^ a b c d Hayward p. 279
  4. ^ Lisanti p. 48
  5. ^ a b Flic Story Archived 2012-03-24 at the Wayback Machine at the British Film Institute retrieved July 30, 2007
  6. ^ a b c Giddins p. 196
  7. ^ a b Flic Story at Films de France retrieved July 30, 2007
  8. ^ Flic Story synopsis at Rotten Tomatoes retrieved July 30, 2007
  9. ^ Cannon p. 104
  10. ^ Films using PCS:Spherical Internet Movie Database retrieved July 30, 2007
  11. ^ Flic Story at the Internet Movie Database retrieved July 30, 2007


  • Cannon, Steve Popular Music in France from Chanson to Techno: Culture, Identity and Society, 2003 ISBN 0-7546-0849-2
  • Giddins, Gary Natural Selection: Gary Giddins on Comedy, Film, Music, and Books, 2006 ISBN 0-19-517951-X
  • Hayward, Susan French National Cinema, 2005 ISBN 0-415-30782-1
  • Lisanti, Tom Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962-1973, 2002 ISBN 0-7864-1194-5

External linksEdit