My generation knows the 1960 version starring Jean Marais directed by Pierre Gaspard-Huit.That version was closer to Gautier's plot:for instance,it's Vallombreuse who's seriously injured in the final duel ,and it's the duke's father who reveals the secret of Isabelle's birth.But it's minor quibble:Abel Gance's version is extremely superior to Gaspard-Huit's.
Gance warned us "it's "le Capitaine Fracasse" seen through Abel Gance's eyes.Abel Gance ,a director who always was a pioneer .He used models for the film sets and it shows: the old castle and its silhouette recalls a Disney Cartoon.There are elements which have not worn well,but some scenes remain impressive today:
-The Matamore's death -only a grave on the road in the 1960 version- is given a gloomy eerie treatment.
-The duel in the graveyard where Gance uses Alexandrians :he would repeat the process in "Cyrano et d'Artagnan" (1963) ,all the lines of which are in verse;it perfectly segues into the scene on stage where the comedians are playing Corneille's "l'Illusion Comique"
-The final scene which verges on fantasy.
Gaspard-Huit's movie was made "for the family" .Gance displays a much more demanding talent:he insists on the fact that if you were a comedian in those years,you were bound to be damned.When the troupe asks the baron for refuge ,his servant mumbles :"they are just heathens!";when the nobles go a hunting in the woods and meet them ,they say :"they are excommunicated!" .The Matamore will not have a priest to pray over his grave.Even the great Molière (1622-1673) did not have a church funeral.
Abel Gance was the true "researcher" of the French cinema.Godard,you can forget it!
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