In a harbour cafe presided over by an aloof hostess and tended by a surly barman, four men meet regularly to play cards: the professor, the doctor, the honourable merchant and the journalist. Also a regular visitor is Lotte, a beautiful lady of the night, A detective arrives investigating the murder of a man found stabbed in an adjoining hotel room. Evidently a stamp dealer, the dead man had been on a boat bound for Singapore. The detective's suspicions fall on the five people. Who is the killer?
Michel Deville likes a joke; preferably as playful and seductive as possible. In Paltoquet (roughly translated as The Nonentity) his cinematic trickery is at full-tilt, with a barrage of sight and sound gags guaranteed to have the viewer's senses working overtime. Deville spins an everyday detective mystery into a complex, highly stylised parlour game, played out with relish by an all-star cast.
While we never know exactly why any of these people spend all their time in the cavernous bar run by Jeanne Moreau and Michel Piccoti (the 'paltoquet' of the title), none of this seems to matter as Deville and cast go to work,
Having supposedly solved the murder mystery, the detective announces that he has read his share of thrillers, and knows that the culprit is always the least suspect Thus the only person with an alibi, must then be the guilty party!