MESRINE Parts 1 & 2 is a strangely compelling cinematic event, which seems the word to describe anything in the theater that requires a double commitment. I saw the parts on subsequent days but had the timing been different would have happily taken an intermission or lunch break on a single day.

The anti-hero was a real figure, whose brutal but daring criminal career spanned at least three continents in the ’60s and ’70s. There seem to have been no prisons hard enough to hold him and plenty of beautiful women willing to do so. This award winning French film from Jean-François Richet makes no moral statements, but its anti-hero is simultaneously so magnetic and so repellent in his willingness to kill and torture that it forces a kind of self-awareness of one’s own dual nature.

Despite its great length, this film is a tabloid, condensing a complicated life to a series of build-ups and climaxes, with little concern for temporal links or wrapping up every plot point. As an event, it is not quite Wagner’s Ring, but I pretty much loved it, almost wishing that it had been enough longer to require three parts rather than two.

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