L'Année sainte

L'Année sainte (Holy Year in English) is a 1976 French-Italian crime comedy film directed by Jean Girault. Set in the Holy Year for Catholics of 1975, it tells the story of two French criminals, acted by Jean Gabin and Jean-Claude Brialy, who make a pilgrimage to Rome to retrieve buried loot. Playing his character Max, a world-weary but wily old gangster, it was the last film made by Gabin.


In a Paris prison, the respected old gangster Max tells a young crook Pierre about stolen gold he once buried under a lemon tree beside a little old church on the outskirts of Rome. Pierre suggests that with millions of pilgrims flocking to Rome for Holy Year they could get there unnoticed. So Max contacts Marcel, an old associate, to arrange clothes, passports and plane tickets. When all is ready, the two break out and in a couple of hours are airborne, with Max dressed as a Belgian bishop and Pierre as his chaplain. Also on the plane with her husband is Christina, a former lover of Max, who recognises him straight away but will not betray him.

Other passengers include a group of incompetent young Italian hijackers, who divert it at gunpoint to Tangier, demanding a getaway car and a million dollars. When cash and car are ready, Max volunteers to be the hijackers' hostage and within minutes relieves them of their guns and money. The flight resumes to Rome, where it is met by Barbier of the Paris police, who has worked out who the Belgian bishop is. After tense negotiations, Barbier agrees to reclaim the million dollars and, because they saved the lives of hundreds of passengers, to let Max and Pierre go free. The two take a cab to the church, which looks different and has no lemon tree. Inside, the parish priest tells them that lightning destroyed the old church and the tree, but among its roots they found a miraculous cache of gold, which enabled them to build this magnificent new church. Approached by a beggar on leaving, Max explodes: "Sh*t, I've already given!"


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