This film by French director Alain Resnais (Last Year in Marienbad) is loosely based on a true story from the 1930s about financier, con-man and swindler Stavisky who was arrested in 1934 for selling phony stock but was never brought to trial. While in jail, he continued to engage in doubtful monetary transactions.
As the rumors that he was being protected by high-ranking members of the government of the French Third Republic were undoubtedly true, the scandal had a profoundly unsettling effect on the French nation, already suffering from poor government handling of the Depression, and this incident nearly brought down both the government and the Republic.
Stavisky's death in prison (an apparent suicide) triggered widespread unrest and rioting. In the movie, when Stavisky (Jean-Paul Belmondo) goes to jail as a young con-man, his embarrassed father commits suicide.
Ruining countless lives in his stellar career as a big-money swindler, including that of his nobleman friend Raoul (Charles Boyer), Stavisky is shown to be a pawn in a still bigger swindle, one which will destroy the Left and open the way to fascism.