Topaz (1969)

Odd artistic decision to make this movie 7 years after the events in question…

At first I thought it was a little boring and hard to relate to but we’ll skip everything I would have said because in the time it took me to finish it and get here, I had a new idea that makes it a much better movie than I suspected.

Okay, so it’s a movie of contradicting parallels.

The defection of an East to West intelligence officer comes across tense and heroic.  Later implications of a West to East defection comes across as cowardly and treasonous.

Deveraux is a French intelligence agent who is initially tasked with helping someone I assumed was a Russian soldier only later to uncover/persecute French intelligence/NATO traitors helping the Russians.

It is somehow okay for the French (Deveraux)  to discretely obtain intel from a US intelligence officer but Russians getting it from the French (Topaz) is terrible.

It’s shitty for French double-agents to pass along info to the Russians but perfectly fine for Deveraux and his buddy to break into a diplomatic convention to photograph classified documents after bribing an official.

It’s okay for Deveraux to be banging the hell out of Juanita (a secret leader of a spy ring) and have these romantic intimate moments while he’s married but his wife has an affair (with a leader of a different spy ring) after they get separated and she’s a piece of shit.  Both end up being influential in the downfall of both spy rings.

The US uses Deveraux who uses a Cuban spy ring to photograph and spy on the Cuban military and science advisors etc.  Carrying out his requests destroys the spy ring and their leader especially because he’s stupid enough to get front row seats to a Castro rally for the weirdly redheaded security agent to remember him.  So because of an error he made, they pay.  The same happens with the French agent who says the defector has been dead a year, it leads to his ring being discovered and his leader dying.

The French are bringing Deveraux back for a “coming to Jesus” ass-whupping and yet he acquires enough info from the defector to pass that whupping back on them.

All of that sounds great but it’s only post-watching analysis, none of that is explicitly emphasized in the movie.  If they had done a more overt job of showing contradictions inherent in the Cold War espionage and counterespionage efforts then it would have been an unstoppably fascinating movie.

And then we have one of the more anticlimactic finishes to any movie let alone a spy movie.  How is that an acceptable ending?  One guy is suicided by defenestration and the other is allowed to walk home and blast himself.  And what?  That’s it?  No media exposure?  No military/government mole hunt?  Nothing?


p.s. Rico Parra looked like David Ogden Stiers with a beard.