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Crime thrillers don't normally distress France's intellectuals or embarrass the government. But then Bertrand Tavernier's oddly-named film "L.627," which has done both, is no ordinary gangster movie.

Named after the penal-code article on drug trafficking, "L.627" caused a furor among Socialists by portraying the government as neither caring about nor understanding the drug problem in France, and as denying police the means to do their job.

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Even touchier in a country where racism and illegal immigration are explosive political issues, virtually all the drug dealers in "L.627" are Arab or black-African immigrants. Le Nouvel Observateur, the weekly bible of the left-thinking intelligentsia, asked in a headline: "Is L.627 racist?"

Interior Minister Paul Quiles was stung by the depiction of policemen working on shoestring budgets in sordid, antiquated offices under incompetent or alcoholic superiors. He denounced the film as a caricature. But middle and low-ranking policemen working the streets, who spoke anonymously to Paris newspapers, praised the film.

Mr. Tavernier has also accused Mr. Quiles of persecuting Michel Alexandre, a drug-squad detective who co-authored the script. Quiles denies the charge.

The rawness of the film owes a lot to the filmmaker's powerful ulterior motive: it is dedicated to Tavernier's son Nils, a recovered heroin addict.

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