*A 2006 U.S. Release*
By situating Triple Agent in Paris during the 1930's, Eric Rohmer has given his film an aura of uncertainly from the very start. Indeed, a newsreel informs us early on that the Leftist government in France now has the popular vote, and it also become apparent from subsequent clips that the Bolshevik Russians and the Nazi Germans are threats to their solidarity, while Fascism continues to spread across much of Europe.
Serge Renko plays Fiodor, an ex-general from the White Russian army who's now living in exile, and seemingly working for their veteran association in Paris. His beautiful Greek wife, Arsino (Katerina Didaskalu), is an artist -- a painter who mostly works at home. While the domestic sequences at the beginning cogently display the affection the pair have for each other, it also becomes known that Fiodor is more than what hes letting on, while his wife is either truly unaware of his reality or her demeanor is simply pretentious. During a dinner conversation with his nephew (also in exile but driving a Taxi in Paris), Fiodor opens up a bit and gives off an odd detail or two about his work as an anti-Red etc., and in general comes off as "very informative" as his nephew puts it. Arsino becomes unhappy about not being aware of the details beforehand and confronts Fiodor, but he brilliantly yet vaguely explains the nature of his work and how he has to "lie" in order to keep everyone off balance, something he doesn't want to do to her. She continues to suspect and even starts to perceive him as a Nazi until a bigger shock comes: he informs her that hes joining the Red Army as a general!
In Triple Agent, Eric Rohmer has woven a deceptive tale around words and the way theyre spoken. Fiodor's exhaustive details time-and-time-again make others so convinced about his knowledge that they don't bother with their own investigation about the "facts." Conspicuously though, Arsino somehow remains with him step-by-step. Dont be fooled by the films title and expect a car chase and a shootout; most of the film takes place inside a room and it's hard to blame an 84-year old filmmaker. However, the mise-en-scne is perfect and the artistically inclined will get much pleasure out of the omnipresence of art and literature, not to mention the lengthy discussions involving various artists. Serge Renko is a Russian actor, and Katerina Didaskalu, who is in fact Greek, give flawless performances, and their original dialect and mannerisms add much to it.
What happens to Fiodor and who does he turn out to be? Was Arsino involved from the start or was she just standing in for the audience? Well, for that you need to see the film. Here, Rohmer has also concocted a brilliant epilogue which is at once simple and profound.
*TRIPLE AGENT premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2004. It also played at NYFF later that year. Unfortunately, the film didn't receive theatrical distribution in the U.S. but it is now available on DVD.
*In the U.K., the film was released by Artificial-Eye.
[Edit]Added Grade/DVD info