It was the beginning of the talkies.Whereas lots of his colleagues were heading for the stage production style,Abel Gance tried his hand at the disaster movie."End of the world" no less.The screenplay was co-written with astronomer Camille Flammarion,author of an "Astronomie Populaire" which I own in my library.
A giant comet is to collide with our good old Earth,our days are numbered.Two brothers ,a poet (Gance himself) and his brother (Victor Francen) think that this catastrophe could help men to become brothers and put an end to war.
Alas!Gance was not really up to it.The playing is histrionic ,and Gance's ,Francen's and Colette Darfeuil's performances are so dismal it's impossible to take the story seriously.Besides,the special effects -of course ,it was 1930,and Gance had not Lang's budget for "Metropolis" - make the film sometimes look like "Plan nine outer space" Ed Wood's immortal work.The story is patchy ,inconsistent and difficult to catch up with .
But, like in every Gance movie,there are good things and it is to these that any review of the movie must address itself.The first sequence is mind-boggling,so stunning we know it will be hard to continue in that vein: it depicts the crucifixion and we really think we're in Jesus's time .Then a tracking out reveals us it's only a stage performance.The connection with the movie escapes me a bit -unless it represents the eternal evil of man- but it's so unexpected all we have to do is admire.The final scenes are relatively impressive:some of them were used again in the highly superior "J'accuse" (1938)cause Gance as it was often the case in his long career ,was running out of money.While the disaster is impending,some take refuge in prayers whereas the others give them over to huge orgies,which Gance depicts in lavish detail.
Both "La Fin Du Monde" and "J'accuse" feature similar ending .Victor Francen declares the war over and announces the "Universal Republic" for the survivors in the former,and the Universal States General are summoned in the latter.
Many Gance works were despised by critics bUT I must say that he took more chances than Godard and co in his life time,and even if his first and his last talkies ("Cyrano et D'Artagnan,1963) are looked upon by pretty much as failures,they were glorious failed attempts.I wish we had an Abel Gance in 2006!
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