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Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Feodor Chaliapin Sr.,
Kostja has created a ballet "The Bolero" (Ravel) for the famous ballet dancer Bettina, who is in love with him. But when Bettina gets polio, and lovely Irene should be her substitute,she is desperate. Will she ever dance and love again?
Jacqueline is sixteen. Her parents are kept very busy by their mutual careers (Dad is a renowned attorney and Mum is a doctor running her own clinic). When they become aware that they neglect their daughter they send her to a boarding school for girls, impeccably run by Mme Vuillard. There Jacqueline meets her new friends who are, nearly all, the children of divorced parents.They all found a league against divorce they name Licodipa.When it is the turn of Jacqueline's parents to split up, and when Margot, Jacqueline's best friend, attempts to kill herself, distress sets in among the girls of the institution... Written by
It is not an easy movie to review.To state the obvious ,it's not because it is Pabst's work that you must applause every scene.Yes the movie has a contemporary feel when it depicts the parents selfishness ,who do not think about their children when they leave their spouse : the "new " family,with two dads or two mums has become very common nowadays ;in 1939,it seemed to concern the bourgeois wealthy family .All the characters in this flick move in luxury apartments ,the girls school has got a pool ,the headmistress and her colleague only teach "Le Maintien" ( =lessons in deportment).But money can't buy love ,as everybody knows,even if it helps a bit ,and we are invited to pity all these poor rich girls ,who need love so bad.
The cast is excellent:Marcelle Chantal ,Marcel L'Herbier's favorite in his melodramas is as credible as a physician (devoted to her patients as we learn at the end)as she was as Russian Empress Alexandra;Jacqueline Delubac,famous for her parts in Sacha Guitry 's works ,shines in her part of an actress who sacrifices everything for the sake of her art ;Micheline Chassagne (debut) liked the movie so much she took the name of her character and she became Micheline Presles :her career was brilliant;Louise Carletti was not as lucky as her,but she is the most endearing of all the young girls;to top them all,there's the extraordinary Marguerite Moreno,who steals every scene she is in,as usual: she did not even have to fall in the pool !The actors are less convincing,the minister being particularly silly.
In 1939,when just before WW1 ,the French cinema was going from strength to strength (and the directors of the era were simply the best that ever were in the country:Carné,Renoir,Duvivier,Guitry,Grémillon) ,Pabst's effort seems lackluster by comparison;there's something in the movie which does not ring true;something like "you who are not rich,take a good look at the folks on the hill,look how miserable they are ,don't you complain about your fate".And even if these damsels in distress (check the title) are would be suffragettes when they write new laws against divorce ,the scene with the minister (would he have welcomed them if they had been plebeian?) sets the record straight: "when you marry (what can a 1939 girl expect from life but a rich marriage?),it will be up to you ( to be a good housewife so your family will be safe ).
"Jeunes Filles En Detresse" is a pleasant movie which recalls "Club De Femmes" (1936 ) -although that work was more defiant,introducing a lesbian character and a boy dressed up as a girl to visit his girlfriend Danielle Darrieux-.At its best ,it's a harmless moving melodrama;at its worst ,it predates the reactionary works of the Occupation cinema "Le Voile Bleu" (don't these parents forget all about their offspring?)or "Péchés De Jeunesse" (where have all my sons gone?)
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