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King Louis XI is a wise and old king and Frollo is the Chief Justice. Frollo gazes on the gypsy girl, Esmeralda, in the church during Fool's Day and sends Quasimoto to catch her. Quasimoto, with the girl, is captured by Phoebus, Captain of the Guards, who frees the girl. The courts sentence Quasimoto to be flogged, and the only one who will give him water while he is tied in the square is Esmeralda. Later, at a party of nobles, Esmeralda again meets both Frollo, who is bewitched by her, and Phoebus. When Phoebus is stabbed to death, Esmeralda is accused of the murder, convicted by the court and sentenced to hang. Clopin, King of the Beggars, Gringoire the Husband of Esmeralda, and Quasimoto, the bellringer, all try different ways to save her from the gallows. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The ending differs from Hugo's novel,but I guess it was necessary to bestow on the audiences a de rigueur happy end when the world situation was getting worse and worse.It' s also dubious that king Louis XI -who died in 1483- might have been aware of Christophe Colomb's plans ,because the latter only informed the king of Portugal-who refused to put up the money for his expedition- in ...1484!
These are minor squabbles.Because this movie is definitely the finest version of Hugo's classic ,much superior to the French one ,directed by Jean Delannoy(1956) with Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida.Dieterle's work is a feast for the eyes with numerous classic scenes ,very clever dialogue,superlative performances and complete mastery of the camera.
The opening-Louis XI visiting a printing house-sums up the turning of history:Gutenberg's invention will allow the knowledge and as the King watches the cathedrals ,he makes us feel that these books of stone are fast becoming a thing of the past.The Middle Ages are coming to an end,but a lot of people ,particularly the clergy do not want to lose the power they have on the populace.When Frollo sentences Esmeralda to death,because of his sexual desire,he puts the blame on the devil.He's a man of the past,diametrically opposite to Gringoire,who epitomizes modernity,and who understands the power of the pamphlet which the printing increases tenfold.
Charles Laughton is by far the best Quasimodo that can be seen on a screen:he's so extraordinary that he almost turns the happy end into a tragedy!He gets good support from a moving and extremely beautiful O'Hara as Esmeralda and from Harwicke as Frollo.
Peaks:the fools day,the cour des miracles -maybe showing some influence by Browning's "freaks"-,all the scenes in the cathedral.Dieterle is on par with the most demanding directors all along his movie:the movements in the crowd are stunning,breathtaking,often filmed from the church towers.Humor is not absent either:Gregoire's eventful night in the cour des Miracles is colorful and funny and scary all at once.
A monument,like the cathedral itself.
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