2 stars (out of four)
Made by the fledgling American director Ra'up McGee, "Autumn" exists in a high-toned, noir-besotted realm of French hit men who speak softly and cook the perfect omelet before ordering up heinous acts of violence. The killer in question, Noel, is played by Michel Aumont, expending not an ounce of unneeded effort in order to make off with a dullish film.
A stolen briefcase with undisclosed contents provides the narrative engine, such as it is. "Autumn" is concerned mostly with the romantic melancholy shrouding the lives of hit man Jean-Pierre (Laurent Lucas) and his mysterious childhood friend Michelle (Irene Jacob). The protagonists' blood-soaked present has been predetermined, according to writer-director McGee, by an injurious past. Throughout "Autumn," McGee (who also produced and edited his debut narrative feature) flashes back to Jean-Pierre at age 10, covered in fall leaves, not long before he discovers a mutilated nude female body in the woods.
With its quick fades and creamy lighting, "Autumn" is all about looking good. McGee may well have strong films in him, but this one feels pretentious and gassy. Jacob, the Swiss actress used so wonderfully in Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Double Life of Veronique" and "Red," humanizes what she can amid a series of calmly composed, prettily empty pictures.
In French with English subtitles. Opens Friday at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St.; 773-509-4949.