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Lon Chaney Jr.,
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"Pièges" was Siodmak's last French movie (unless we count his failed remake of FEyder's "le grand jeu").And it was the great thriller he had threatened to make during all the thirties.Both "tumultes" and his curious "Mister Flow" were interesting but they were absolutely dwarfed by "Pièges".
"Pièges" is not perfect though: There's a certain vagueness in the middle of the film,when the heroine (Marie Déa) becomes a servant in a rich house .Déa plays an amateur undercover policewoman cause one of her friends was a victim of a maniac who stalks his preys through small ads .
Marie Déa's most famous parts were Carné 's "les Visiteurs du Soir" and Cocteau's "Orphée" but in this one,they put the whole weight on her and she carried it brilliantly.The other actors actually play supporting parts : Erich Von Stroheim's appearance does not exceed ten minutes but it's ten GREAT minutes.I have often got the strange feeling,when I'm watching Von Stroheim's French movies,that the directors make him play his own part of a fallen director.It's glaring in "l'alibi" where he plays a two-bit magician ,he who directed such masterworks as "greed" or "queen Kelly" ,or in "la Foire aux Chimères" where he portrays a humiliated man desperately in love with a woman who doesn't care about him.In "pièges" he plays a fallen top designer who still believes (or does he?) the aristocracy adores him.So he stands on his stage in front of an empty room,presenting his clothes :how can't we think of the former Hollywood film-maker?And of Gloria Swanson coming down her stair in "Sunset Blvd" where Von Stroheim was her butler.This Von Stroheim sequence,the connection of which with the movie is rather thin, is my favorite :it includes madness,hints at Perrault's "Blue Beard" and heralds the Freudian film noir which would become one of Siodmak's trademarks in his American forties ("Spiral staircase" the stunning "dark mirror" with two Olivia de Havilland)
On the other hand ,the choice of Maurice Chevalier was not a good one.Who can believe he's a serial killer?This singer (who sings two ditties:"mon amour " and "Il Pleurait Comme une Madeleine" (=he was crying his eyes out)is in a thriller like a bull in a china shop.
Pierre Renoir's performance is brilliant.Like Hitchcock,Siodmak did not like the whodunit that much and he knows we cannot suspect Chevalier.So his study of Renoir's character is absorbing,recalling sometimes Lorre's performance in Lang's "M" ,which the expressionist lighting effects reinforce:the scene when Marie Déa is asleep in a room where only the ticking of a clock is heard is first-class film noir stuff.
People who are familiar with Siodmak's American career should have a look at "Pièges" .It contains their seeds.
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