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The fatal trunk.
"All those teenage girls read those tabloids ,where horrible murders are depicted in minute details" says the indignant teacher ."I've confiscated this trash ;if only they read the problem page!"
A classical love triangle, but although the plot is derivative, Henri Calef ,one of the most neglected French directors of the post-war era , gives it substance ; the characters are more detailed than in the average thriller ;Didier cheats on his wife ,but he does love her , and takes good care of her ,because he knows she's a heart condition and the doctor says that she may pass away before her time ; he's helped by his sister ,a spinster who teaches in highschool , and who lives with them.
The movie only takes off after the (accidental?) murder of the pregnant lover. Although her health does not allow her to give birth to a child, Didier can't even think of divorcing his ailing wife .
The cast is excellent :Georges Marchal is the cheating husband ,not so self-assured ,facing a harrowing dilemma;Françoise Christophe is deeply moving as the helplessly hoping wife,who is still thinking her husband can come back to her .But in the last part ,they take a back seat to Suzanne Dehelly ,the kind-hearted old maid who ,little by little, discovers the horrible truth :sadly all she does to save her brother backfires on him .
The detective plot is well written : the robbery is a good trick ,because ,for a short while ,one thinks that Didier is summoned by the police for his crime ;clues are given to them : a trunk , a bill, an umbrella .Now the police suspect the husband and his wife must not ,must never know the truth.
After two so-so thrillers ("la passante " "ombres et lumières") , Calef returns to the desperate film noir ,and although it does not match early works ( "la souricière" " eaux troubles" ), it does not deserve to be ignored.
L'araignée d'eau (1970)
Folie à deux.
This movie begins with a warning : (fantasy) tales are children's fears come true .The spider is par excellence, a scaring animal which inspired many movies from "Tarantula" to " the incredible shrinking man" to " Arachnophobia" .
But, in spite of the poster , this film has nothing horrible, nothing terrifying ; a voice over replaces the special effects ,depicting the man /pond-skater union , the rural landscapes are banal,but nicely filmed ;although Bernard is tired of his wife and wants another lover ,do not expect a menage à trois ;you rather get folie à deux ,perhaps with an imaginary character created by the hero,as child often do when they are alone or not loved by their family -which would justify the beginning; action is kept to the minimum :one hears complains of the villagers who say some of their stuff has been stolen .That's it. More atmosphere than story .
A wedding and a funeral.
Plot : Two families live on the same landing of an apartment building .Mr Reverson's daughter is getting married and it is cause for celebration .Mr Armand's mom has just died in a car crash and her funeral takes place the same day as the wedding. But nothing happens as planned :half of the guests of the wedding are lost on the highway whilst the mourners,during the meal ,have to listen to cousin Yvette who ,pretending to sadly miss her late sister , has words full of venom against her and her son.
"Finer feelings make good blowouts " is a very funny comedy,full of gags ,puns and black humor , but it is a dark irony ; these people , guests or mourners ,look a lot like us and the director never despises them ;much to the viewer's surprise ,earnest thespians such Michel Bouquet and Michael Lonsdale are extremely at ease in the comic field ; Jean Carmet ,on the other hand , was one of the best comic actors in France ,with his hangdog looks and his stupefied face , always overtaken by events, he rises to the occasion too ; the second half,however ,belongs to Gabrielle Doulcet ,the spiteful old lady everybody knows,the kind of character Etienne Chatiliez would use in his "Tatie Danielle" .
Often riotously funny , this bittersweet comedy is to be recommended .
13 West Street (1962)
Escalation of violence .
This movie anticipated the man-who-takes-the -law-in -his-hands subject which became very common in the seventies and eighties ;a bloated Alan Ladd -who is no longer physically the "Shane " lawman -,who was beaten up by a gang after hours -finds the cop's work ( Rod Steiger gives an amazing performance restraint in his gestures and words ) not effective and not quick enough .
The gang is particularly interesting :first appearance may make think of boys coming from the wrong side of town-even the car may have been stolen- ,rebels against the establishment (represented by a scientist : the beginning of the movie has something incongruous )and their rules;actually ,with the possible exception of the boy who works in a drugstore , they are rich kids ,born silver spoon in hand ,with parents who provide them with protection (see the scene by the pool ,when Chuck tells his mom he always lies to the police and she thoughtlessly approves of his behavior .
Chuck-a good performance by M. Callan- is actually the most fascinating character : perhaps inspired by Richard Fleischer's Artie Strauss (played by Bradford Dillman in his masterful "compulsion" ,based on real facts) ,he's the evil genius of the gang which he dominates ;like both heroes of "compulsion" ,he belongs to the high society .
The screenplay is too dense and too eventful in its last part ; but its inexorable escalation of violence makes sense , and it does not pass over in silence that an honest citizen can turn into a criminal too.
Mademoiselle s'amuse (1948)
She'll have fun fun fun till her fiancé gets fed up.
For her 19th (or 18th ,who cares?) birthday,a girl whose daddy is a millionaire and who has everything money can buy asks for a swing orchestra as a present ,namely the famous Ray Ventura et ses collégiens; this movie,unlike other Boyer's musicals ("prends la route" ) ,has no screenplay ,unless the final kidnapping counts ; this is succession of syrupy songs and instrumentals by the band bought by dad .Gisèle Pascal is not Danielle Darrieux ,and her acting is almost unbearable ; Jeanne Fusier-Gir as the reasonable holier-than-thou housekeeper (The swing is music for savages!) and Henri Salvador save something from the wreckage .
Docked one star for an absolutely appalling scene of the costume ball ,which is racist and makes the user push the fast forward button.
Frygtelig lykkelig (2008)
Welcome to the club.
Based on a true story , the film creates a strange atmosphere in a small Danish town where a cop winds up ,after being estranged from his wife and his daughter (one never sees in the movie) .
Although it focuses on a husband committing acts of violence against his wife , the inhabitants conceal deep secrets ,sunk into a swamp ;thus the last sequence leaves the viewer ill-at-ease. Not terribly happy but terribly scared.
Pushing one of Fritz Lang's tenets, "every man is a potential criminal " to the limits , even though one deals with an accident ,"Frygtelig lykkelig" creates ambiguous characters (the wife ,the husband ,the cop/attentive escort, the girlie, the card players) and an intriguing atmosphere.
La cavale (1971)
Cause tramps like us,baby,we were born to run......
Based on Albertine Sarrazin's book , it is ,like "l'astragale" (1968) ,an autobiographic story ;whereas "l'astragale" depicts live of a convict after her escape, "la cavale" ,in spite of its title (=on the run) depicts life in women jail ,warts and all.
The writer spent 8 years of her short life (she died at 29) in jail ; both her books became best-sellers after her death in 1967 ;"l'astragale" owed a big deal to Marlene Jobert who transcended Guy Casaril 's flat direction ; in Michel Mitrani's 1971 movie, character actress Juliet Berto is well cast for Sarrazin (Annick) was an intellectual ,an anomaly in the world of these female convicts coming all from poor backgrounds,coarse, even racist (see how they welcome the Algerian convict).
Sarrazin came from a well-to-do milieu (her father was an officer) but she did not have a happy life for all that :her uncle raped her when she was a child ,and she took a rebel stand as soon as she was a teenager :her father had her imprisoned in a reformatory and her life was a succession of prisons .The lawyer was not wrong when he told the judge they (Annick and her boyfriend Julien) got a raw deal .
Although the movie begins with both lovers in a police van,en route to the prison ,the movie focuses on her life in prison (the man is almost absent in the first hour ) ;as an inmate , Annick found it hard to obey the rude wardens' orders and the fly-on-the-wall account of carceral life is ruthless ;and athough she makes friends with her mates ,there's even hints at her bisexuality, an intellectual (she wrote a lot in prison, it was her loophole) can barely relate to these girls devoid of education. There's one exception:the prisoner played by Genevieve Page ("Belle de jour" "the private life of Sherlock Holmes" )is also an anomaly :with her aristocratic looks and her low-pitched voice she could have provided Annick with a counterpart ,but her part is sadly too short.
Writing , and her love for Julien are Annick's raison d'être ;I think that Horst Bucholz was a better Julien in "l' astragale "than good-looking Jean-Claude Bouillon in "la cavale" ,there's no real chemistry between him and Berto,although the wedding and the mayor's gaffe are good moments.
Le mioche (1936)
A man and a baby
This is Leonide Moguy 's first effort ; it's full of implausibilities : Prosper has two B. A. (in 1936 !) and he wound up as a mechanic assistant in a garage ! In the boarding school where he is hired,he teaches philosophy , literature (there's a good trick about Shakespeare 's "Richard The Third" ) , you name it , and even trigonometry :on the board you can see towards the end , there's the sine curve! Enough is enough!
But it is a pleasant comedy ,long before "trois hommes et un couffin " aka "three men and a baby" , and much better at that. Lucien Baroux is efficient as ever as a kind-hearted man who "adopts " a toddler and hides him in his school (for girls!) unbeknownst to the harsh headmistress (the marvelous Gabrielle Dorziat ) helped by an unexpected Pauline Carton as the supervisor .Pretty soon , the baby will have forty moms,for the students have discovered his secret , and of course shame and scandal in the boarding school with a good reputation. It's also one of Madeleine Robinson 's first roles ,here cast as the unfortunate mother ,who was forced to abandon her baby because she was utterly destitute .
Leonide Moguy would return to establishment for girls ,this time a reformatory ("prisons sans barreaux ") in his sophomore effort.
Je ne rêve que de vous (2019)
An irrepressible woman
Leon Blum rose to power in 1936 when his party won the elections ; his measures were revolutionary :the forty-hour working week ,paid vacations , it was his work. The French owe him a great deal.
But his life during the occupation is not well known : after a travesty of a trial ,he was sent to a fortress ,then in a house near Buchenwald concentration camp.
The film tells a story of a woman who left husband and son who fled to South America to follow that man she had been admiring since the Front Populaire days in his captivity .An irrepressible woman ,and a feminist , she urges the wives to stand together even his their husbands do not share the same political ideas .
The film was slagged off in France ;I do not go much for Elsa Zylberstein's acting generally ,but this time she won me over ; it's less obvious for Hippolyte Girardot :portraying a famous historical figure is always a hard task and he's just OK.
L'inconnue n° 13 (1949)
Jean-Paul PAULIN made interesting works such as " l'esclave blanc" "les filles du Rhône" .He also championed the military spirit ("trois de saint-cyr" "le chemin de l'honneur" ,which may or may not help him direct a movie sponsored by Marechal Petain during the occupation "la nuit merveilleuse " which was a re-telling of the Nativity in Provence .
"L'inconnue n°13 " wanted to renew the hackneyed subject of the injured woman suffering from amnesia ; the journalists who have taken care of her abandoned brat use a reconstruction of the events preceding her accident in a short they make with professional actors .It's a bit far-fetched for the screenplay in nothing but a trite melodrama .Besides ,the trick of the film to help the person 's memory come back was already used in 1912 (!) by Leonce Perret in his "le mystère des roches De Kador "
René Dary is a nice actor,always playing the kind-hearted athletic man and the confirmed bachelor , who lives here with an authoritarian but good-hearted housekeeper. The first part of the movie is the most endearing ,including an offbeat performing fleas act.
Le rempart des Béguines (1972)
Like Leontine Sagan's "Madchen in Uniform" or Jacqueline Audry's " Olivia" ,it could have been a milestone in the lesbian cinema.
Sadly ,it is not ; only Nicole Courcel saves something from the wreckage .Guy Casaril ,whose movies were dreadful ("les novices " , "les pétroleuses" ; "l'astragale" was saved by her principal ,Marlène Jobert , "Piaf " by its subject) did not rise to the occasion.
His movie,based on a novel by Françoise Mallet-Joris , takes place in the high bourgeoisie ,and acting is affected , with a rather self-conscious manner ,particularly Anicée Alvina and Jean Martin (unconvincing as a tolerant wealthy bourgeois :compare with what Michel Bouquet and Claude Piéplu would do in Chabrol's movies; note that Chabrol had already broached the subject in "les biches" ).
Don' t expect to get an eyeful : most of the time ,the actresses keep their clothes on. Apparently , these women are supposed to display a firm independence of men : they go shopping ,they spend the night in a lesbian night club (rarely filmed in mainstream movies) , they make love although the older woman is also the younger' s father's lover .
It' s would be feminism ,but all in all ,it is not so : women need men ,if it were only for their money which provides them with a confortable life ;hence the bourgeois conclusion and the ridiculous final scene.
By and large ,the readers of the book were disappointed.
This is not fact :this is legend.
Abel Gance 's 1955 version was based on Dumas's play but this French-German one is closer to Michel Zevaco's swashbucklers;it's definitely inferior to the fifties' effort ,but the French Lead, Jean Piat ,essentially a stage actor , has plenty of go and wields the sword with gusto ; he does not take the story too seriously , the right thing to do when you deal with a part unworthy of your talent , and his playing verges on tongue-in- chick.
First thing you've got to bear in mind is that it's not history :it's legend ; Marguerite de Bourgogne was Philippe Le Bel's daughter-in -law and this king was no joker :when he learnt that his son's wife had an affair with Philippe d'Aulnay and her sister-in-law Blanche was sleeping with brother Gaultier ,he had both unfortunate young men flayed alive and Marguerite was strangled in her dungeon;as for Buridan ,he was never a victor ,but a scholar :he used to teach philosophy at the university . It's François Villon's poem "ballade des dames du temps jadis" who spawned the legend of" this man thrown into the Seine in a bag."All these characters are featured in the film.
There were already nudities in Gance's work,which was risqué at the time ;in 1968 it was more common ,but the plot involved an incestuous relationship (consummated in the movie) .
The first part was certainly influenced by Gance ,but the second one turns melodramatic ,confused,the queen changing her mind every five minutes ; the king seems to be out of a card game ,and the giant chess game out of "Alive in wonderland" ;the cinematography is nice and shots of the tower are particularly successful ; the director already showed a fondness for soft eroticism which he would carry on in the seventies.
A kiss before dying.
An absorbing psychological thriller, thoroughly renewing the "Bluebeard's wives " subject ,and introducing strong characters ; at first sight ,it seems that butter would not melt in plump Anker's mouth ; he appears as a meek guy ,whose purpose in life seems to find himself a family ;but further aquaintance shows a disturbing guy who,behind a kind face ,hides a darker side .In direct contrast with him , Thomas is the self-assured man ,a journalist and a writer with good prospects ,married to a level-headed woman ;but cracks appear in the mirror: his sister Julie suffers from cerebral injuries;and when he's asked whether he intends to have children ,his answer is vague ; cop Carl discovers disturbing things about a man with whom the viewer is supposed to side.
Thomas' investigation becomes more and more worrying ,as he discovers that his ex brother-in-law repeats the same role with the same kind of girl ; Anker realizes he has blundered when he chose him as his best man and his speech suffers accordingly .This "déjà vu" scene is terrifying and panic-stricken Thomas begins to see what would lie beneath .But these girls are not wealthy and their husband cannot be considered a fortune-hunter,like in other thrillers of the genre.
This is not an ordinary thriller :it's a meditation about death :it's only a detail,but Thomas 's dad who dared his daughter to jump out of the window was a false suicidal man who when cancer was eating away at him ,asked that someone held his hand (and perhaps prevented him from dying) .
Anker remains ambiguous till the very end; the whole movie could be a metaphor for the assisted suicide ; did his wives really lose their reason to live? Is the worst thing in life to die alone,without a dear one to hold your hand? And all in all wasn't Anker a man with suicidal tendencies who had found with Thomas the hand to hold?-which would justify the bizarre final scene between them.
Very classic in its form ,with sex,violence and blood kept to the minimum , "Morke" is not only the name of a town ; it has become the name of a great thriller ;no remake needed.
Le concerto de la peur (1963)
Nothing in the night.
Before becoming "the father of hard -core pornography in France " ,José Bénazéraf made a bunch of would be intellectual cheap films noirs ,each one lousier than the one before ; like in his so called "masterpiece" "Jo Caligula -Du Suif chez les dabes" , this director made several attempts to establish himself as "meaningful" "deep" ,film noir philosopher ,but his screenplays are not original enough to justify the banality of his "insights" ; dubbed in English ,the actors might delude the viewers into thinking they are champions of underplaying ;:in the orginal version ,it's a disaster : acting is downright amateurish -with the exception of Kalfon- ,verging on ludicrous :Yvonne Monlaur's dreary delivery is so abysmal she's a contender for the worst French actress of all time ;no wonder her career did not survive the sixties.
After the pretentious intellectual warning ,it takes 13 minutes before the cast and credits appear (which ,in a 72-minute flick, is quite original); the story is the umpteenth tale of drug-traffickers who take a hostage ,a good girl (there's also a bad one ,mind you ,and both do not get on very well); jazzy music by Chet Baker is the only artistic feature of a dud.
And please ,don't compare it with Samuel Fuller : the contemporary "the naked kiss",for instance , had a mind-blowing screenplay and a powerful actress (Constance Towers );these directors are worlds apart.
Nous irons à Deauville (1962)
Have a nice vacation.
Produced by Sacha Distel's uncle ,Ray Ventura ,it is the third installment in the "Nous irons." (= we will go....)series ; for the record there's also "Nous irons à Paris "(1949) ,"Nous irons à Monte -Carlo"(1951),both directed by Jean Boyer, with music by Paul Misraki and Ventura himself .
Ray Ventura and his orchestra do not appear here ,but there are two or three songs , with a special guest appearance by his nephew . Only black singer Tony Milton's rocking tune is really exciting , the other songs ,if you can't say something nice......
Now for the film :Deauville was The Chic seaside resort on Normandy coast and to go there was the middle class' s dream :even though it meant renting a seedy house falling apart at every nail ; if you spent your vacation in this posh place ,you would impress your friends and neighbors .
There's a good cast , including Michel Serrault,Claude Brasseur ,Michel Galabru ,and Louis De Funès in a supporting part ; Roger Pierre and Jean-Marc Thibault appear in only one scene,but their gift of the gab is irresistible .Mary Marquet as the owner of the house near decay has a tendency to overplay though.
The thin thread is a trunk which never arrives ,in spite of the delivery man's so called efforts.(Jean Carmet);the film is deliciously dated with its "nouveaux francs " (=new francs ) and its surprise-partie (=party); Serrault licking his boss' boots is also good fun.
Unlike the tragedy of Mayerling ,the assassination in Sarajevo did not inspire that much the directors; Max Ophuls broached it ("de Mayerling à Sarajevo",1940),but his film focused on Franz- Ferdinand 's and his morganatic wife ,countess Sophie Chotek's love story ;like "Sarajevo" it ended with pictures of WW1 in black and white (and Ophuls added pictures of the Nazis :his was a propaganda movie ; it was 1940)
Hence the comparison ends : the modern version refuses the show: the assassination is not really showed ( sound of the first bomb, fleeting pictures of the sovereigns ) and all happens after the tragedy : an investigation ,made by a Croatian magistrate tries to unravel what lies beneath this attack ,bit it seems that ,in spite of his struggle, the die is cast ; Franz-Ferdinand was some kind of persona non grata in Vienna and they insist on the lack of precautionary measures from Vienna ;the changes in the route of the coach through the streets of the town.
The Austrian-Hungarish empire was a melting pot ,longing to free from the Hapsburg's yoke and the Balkans were a powder keg :Sarajevo sparked off .Germany would find itself caught in a stranglehold : France in the East ,Russia in the west ; and there's a plan (not historically proved ) of a train which would link up Berlin and Baghdad: the railroad track would pass through Serbia (which would not exist anymore).
Whatever report the young magistrate may bring to the Austrian goverment,it does not seem to matter anymore anyway ; the questioning of the prisoners bring nothing new ,except that they were only pawns in 'their " game.
It's an interesting account of a historical event ,although I'd tone things a bit for the love affair , the only storylike concession to a rigorous teleplay.
Unge Andersen (2005)
Big Claus and little Claus
Ever since I was a child ,HC Andersen 's tales would exert a fascination on me ,even though they were not always "and they lived happily ever after"kind. But there was a Christian side to them which would bring solace ("little mermaid" "little match girl" " a story from the sands" )
"Unge Andersen " is anti-hollywoodian biography ; it focuses on a small part of his life and is given a sometimes anti-realistic treatment ;for instance one of his future characters (little Tuk) appears in the movie , perhaps to show teacher Meisling at his more sadistic .
This loose piece of biography (frames of minds and streams of consciousness ,more like) depicts the life and times of the writer when he was sent to Meisler 's school by his "benefactor" Jonas Collins; to be seventeen in a class where the pupils are twelve is no picnic,and the scene in the schoolyard (and others when he's a laughing stock when he reads his plays or dramas) predates "the ugly duckling" (the wings are redundant , everybody past infancy knows the score )
The Meisling/Andersen is downright bewildering : the seventeen-year -old lad is absolutely ignorant ,clueless, in any subject(arithmetic, history,geography) but literature ; Meisling's attitude is not very clear :he seems to marvel at his pupil's knowledge about the great writers,but he confiscates all the stuff of his seedy bedroom ;and later on, when they meet again after the Xmas fete (during which HCA marvels at the sumptuous Xmas tree as much as his little match girl would do ) , he simply says " you're mine" .He's so dumb he do not even understands his teacher's wife's advances .
No matter what the true story is like, the gloomy austere atmosphere shows a man who does not seem to stand reality and takes refuge in an imaginary world: the most successful scene is the tales -with a marvelous use of a shadow show- HCA tells a (real ,but as I wrote ,a future imaginary character) poor little boy ;you do not hear a single word, but the brat's face is beaming .
The widely-know part of his work,namely his tales (which as he was aging , were less and less fantasy), is almost absent : only the first lines of "the little mermaid " are heard towards the end .They say it was inspired by an impossible love with his benefactor Collin's daughter -and perhaps son.
Simon Dahl Thaulow is absolutely excellent ,dreaming,gauche, shy,considerate with little Tuk;on the other hand ,one can have done without the classic construction (an old man remembers ,and on with the flashbacks).
But definitely off the beaten track of biography and thus to be recommended.
Julie pot-de-colle (1977)
De Broca's couscous.
"Julie pot-de-colle "(pot of glue) was slagged off when it was released in 1977. Hindsight displays its charm.
De Broca met again Jean-Claude Brialy he had already directed in his masterpiece "le roi de coeur" (whose reputation is higher abroad than in its native country) Brialy's role is in the tradition of Cary Grant's American comedies and Marlène Jobert looks like a French Shirley McLaine .
Both are efficient in a story which sometimes lacks tempo and is short of black humor ;besides Alexandra Stewart is wasted in an underwritten part.
But there's a good chemistry between the executive, a well-respected man whose life is his brilliant career and a future marriage with a chic woman and a foolish girl who accidentally killed her husband :after the murder made to look like an accident with his help -this part is botched- , she 's so grateful to him that she follows him around like a little dog ,and overnight ,turns his well-ordered existence upside down.
Good moments :Julie, stealing his weapon from a gendarme ;the chase in the Morrocan town :De Broca was a big fan of comic strip writer Hergé (see also "l'homme de Rio" ) :and it reminds us of the Dupondt (Thompson Twins) and their jeep in " Tintin au pays de l'or noir" ;the dictaphone ,with an unexpected ending,which turns for a brief moment the comedy into a whodunit .
It's not among De Broca 's best but it's entertaining and well acted .
A remake of a René Clair's silent movie (1927) based on a play by Labiche ,the master of French théâtre de Boulevard , this fim possesses strong appeal for Fernandel 's fans .
The hero's horse has eaten a lady's straw hat from Italy (check the title) and she demands exactly the same hat ( it's her hubby's gift and she is with her lover) ; so this groom ,en route for the wedding ceremony ,must go out of his way to find the precious hat .The bride's father is infuriated ,and,every ten minutes , threatens :"all is broken off."
As this kind of hat is nowhere to be found, it's an interminable search which leads the unfortunate groom to funny situations .Fernandel sings two or three songs including "elle bayait aux corneilles" (she was standing and gaping).
Une fille à papa (1936)
Your father should know.
René Guissart was a minor director who made pleasant comedies ("toi c'est moi") and sometimes displayed social concern ("Ménilmontant" (1936),his best film , with something of the 1936 front populaire).
Plot: A wealthy orphan girl (Josette Day) asks the receptionist of a hotel (at the time they called them "concierge" ) to play the role of her papa ,for she wants to marry and she wants to do the right choice. Both go to a Winter sports resort where they meet a fortune-hunter whose girlfriend will make a big mistake , a lieutenant ,who in civilian life,is a priest. Undaunted,they head for the seaside.
The papa is harassed by a countess who's got a crush on him,because she mistakes him for a noble.
Pleasant ,harmless stuff ; Lucien Baroux was a good comic actor. And an occasion to see a young Jean Servais ,who became known when he was older.
La fille du diable (1946)
Sympathy for the devil's daughter.
Although his reputation is not as known as theirs , Henry Decoin was ,along Julien Duvivier and Henri- Georges Clouzot ,one of the most influential forces in the film noir field:"les inconnus dans la maison" ,"le bienfaiteur" "l'homme de Londres" "non coupable" "les amants du pont-saint-jean", "les amoureux sont seuls au monde " "la vérité sur bébé donge" are all unqualified musts for anyone interested in the old French thriller.
"La fille du diable" bears a distant resemblance to earlier "le bienfaiteur" ,but ,in my book , it surpasses the former work.
Fernand Ledoux 's and Pierre Fresnay's cat and mouse play is at once funny and tragic ;good guy and baddie nohow : because he knows that Saget is a gangster who did not make his fortune in America ,the doctor exerts a "moral" blackmail on him : the way he forces him to pay the invoice for the church bell, the radiotherapy center and the stadium (which will prevent the youth from going hoodlums) is absolutely stunning ,and both actors are at the top of their game ; the baffled gangster tries to strike back ,discovering that two women were some kind of guinea-pigs and that his purpose is more to be inducted in the Academy of Medecine than to help his fellow men .
In the village where the action takes place, hypocrisy , scheming and false generosity reign ; the former gangster has a grown up kid side to him, and his auntie( excellent Therese Dorny) still treats him like a child ; his fortune being used to help the public good, he's relegated to sell fishing rods in her store .
Gangster Saget has a chip on his shoulder ,he doesn't like to be liked and he likes nobody ;he will meet his female counterpart in the shape of an outcast girl ,Isabelle,whose father hung himself,after being (perhaps unfairly) accused of embezzlement .With a rebellious teenager in tow, armed up with a slingshot ,they shoot at everything on this village that denies them a place .Isabelle reigns over a bunch of underdogs ,fascinated by her noir personality, but who let her down as soon as she asks them to spoil the chatelaine's fete .An extremely ambiguous character ,she longs for tenderness in her dark room :because love and affection elude her ,she opts for evil and a bizarre relationship grows between the former gangster and a girl who stays in front of the church , feeling hate for those well-meaning people .Some kind of priestess of evil ,in love with a man she thinks she does not know ,but who represents rebellion against a rotten society.
Although she comes last in the cast and credits ,Andrée Clément almost stole the show from her highly talented male partners ;hadn't she died from TB (appalling coincidence ,she suffers from this disease in the film) ,and had she been given more important parts ,she could have become part of the elite of French actresses,along with Arletty ,Simone Signoret, Danielle Darrieux, Michele Morgan, Micheline Presles, Madeleine Robinson,et al.
Decoin's directing is faultless ; the first scenes are almost abstract ,and the man,driving at a dizzying speed on the road , lays the cards on the table: it will be a story of sound and fury ,although often muffled .The short panoramic of the welcome village will not delude the viewer for long ;later on, oblique shots of the streets and church will emphasize a rotten microcosm .
Crímenes de familia (2020)
The ties that bind.
This could have been a classic melodrama straight out of the ark :it is not ,the treatment is not derivative and although one may guess the ending before the final revelation , the construction of the movie is rather subtle ,using two distinct plots with two accused persons (a man and a woman) :it's thirty minutes before both stories are linked with Ignacio 's testimony in Gladys affair and one learns that he and his wife are concerned by both .In these trials , for once, they do not show the brilliant lawyers but leaves the lion's share to the accused ,both well acted :butter would not melt in Daniel 's mouth
and Gladys seems out of this world .What the bourgeois mother (excellent Cecilia Roth) plots with the shady lawyer backfires on her .
Based on a true story , it avoids tear-jerker tricks ,much to the credit to this Argentine movie.
A poor man's French connection.
This would be hard thriller is one third violence and sadism ,two thirds Harlequin romance .
Plot: wicked Michael uses his girlfriend,Karen ,an air hostess,to smuggle cocaine ....until the day she comes back to find him in the arms of another girl ! And she did all this illegal business out of love for this boor. In a fit of anger,she runs away with the coco and throws it into the sea ; unfortunately for her and her ex-lover, Costa (Gordon Mitchell , ex-star of sword and sandals and spaghetti westerns)their boss is not prepared to accept such a waste ;so they begin to track down the runaway.
The movie is full of plot holes and implausibilities : watch out ,cause the airport is swarming with cops !it does not prevent Karen from escaping with the drug with remarkable ease .Karen 's virtuous friend and her family are abandoned to their sad fate without tears. And the junkie redeems herself by saving children from death,not once,but twice :what a stroke of luck!
Two thirds bland romance : Karen takes refuge in an old castle ,whose owner is a true gentleman ,a highbrow who falls for her and asks a doctor (Jess Hahn) to help her with her addiction problem .As it weren't enough ,the movie ends with lines tracing the history of the castle! The connection with the plot escapes me,I fear...
Best moment :Karen ,throwing the snow into the sea while singing "jingle bells "
La merveilleuse journée (1932)
Rien ne va plus .
This is a remake of a silent movie made four years before .Robert Wyler (yes, it's William's brother) co-directed it with Yves Mirande .He would do three films in all ,here, another one co-directed by Carol Reed .At the time William Wyler had a dozen of movies under his belt and it would not take long before Robert joined his sibling in Hollywood.
Now for the movie: it's a pleasant unpretentious comedy,with colorful characters :set in the south of France , on Marcel Pagnol's territory it tells the story of an assistant -pharmacist (Frederic Duvalles ) who is his boss's big fat wife 's lover,willy-nilly ,in the stockroom ,full of naphtaline smell .The doctor (Alerme),imitating Docteur Knock ,with a little help from the pharmacist ,has turned a millionaire,Fellou ,who lives on his yacht ,into an imaginary sick man and they sell tons of medicines to him .
Both men ( the lover,sick and tired of this authoritarian missus and the wealty man ,fed up with his cure) decide to leave for a marvelous day in a chic seaside resort ; the beaches are overcrowded ,but in the casinos , you can win a fortune ,...and lose it within the following hour .
The assistant pharmacist does not know the name of the game in these gambling places and his naivete leads him from rags to riches ,and then the other way around .The scenes in the casino drag on a little, but his return ,with a would be chauffeur ,and his burdensome mistress is still waiting for him ;only the vicar can come between them ,and if she confesses her sin to him ,he won't be allowed to talk about it...
Not much food for thought ,but much fun!
Don't be fooled by the poster : the story does not take place in the country,in spite of the bizarre title, which looks like the beginning of a fable , the verbs at the past historic indicate a distance from the director , the obscure Pierre Zacca.
This is an offbeat story, extremely different from the mainstream of the seventies French cinema. A father/son relationship does not really depict the movie: although Vincent is still helping his would be blind dad ,who hides behind dark glasses ,who has a good German Friend and who had to leave his homeland after WW2 . Is it for that that Vincent leaves the house and do not have dinner with both men? Or is it because he wants to meet his girlfriend he suspects of cheating on him with a handsome journalist? Is the auctioneer who calls at the workshop ,his dad's mistress?
Vincent moves into a small bedroom ( provided by the would be girlfriend's lover),which might justify the title : he put the donkey in the meadow (he left daddy in his house) and went to another one (the bedroom in which he showed himself to be fussy : the accomodation looks onto a nice view of Paris,all the same!)
In fact , Vincent remains a grown up kid , who does not want young women to sleep with older men, whose relationship with his father (a former collaborator during the occupation?) , whose work as a sculptor means nothing to him , and whose jealousy knows no bound.
It's not an accessible movie ,but the cast deserves your undivided attention : Michel Bouquet ,Chabrol's favorite actor ,who underplays in a subtle way ,a long-haired Fabrice Luccchini on the threshold of a long and brilliant career ,and an amazing Bernadette Laffont ,cast against type as the elegant auctioneer .And thanks to this highly talented threesome ,you can sit it through.