No Man’s Land (1985): Alan Tanner’s Tale of the French-Swiss Border

Produced, directed, and written by the Swiss auteur Alain Tanner, No Man’s Land, a film about the French-Swiss border (which explains the title), premiered at the 1985 Venice Film Fest and then played at the New York Film Fest (where I saw it).

Jean (Jean-Philippe Écoffey), a young Swiss whose watchmaking skills are no longer useful, spends his time at his parents’ farm or in the restaurant of Lucie (Marie-Luce Felber) with whom he sleeps but doesn’t love her.

He becomes smitten with an Algerian woman (Betty Berr), who travels daily between France and Switzerland for work.  Occasionally, he helps Paul (Hughes Quester), a mechanic in his father’s auto shop who dreams of going to Canada, smuggling items across the border to make money.

The police gets suspicious and begins visiting the nightclub run by Paul’s lover Madeleine (Myriam Mézières) to inquire about his actions.  When Paul gets an offer to smuggle a large amount of gold, he decides to take the risk “for the last time” and takes Jean with him.