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Although it is a pleasant movie ,it seems like a draft, a rehearsal for
Autant-Lara's next movie "douce".
Autant-Lara was mainly known for his collaborations with Lehmann (three in all, one of them "fric frac" is particularly memorable).During the Occupation he began to work on his own and he would become an important artist with such works as "douce "(1943)"le diable au corps"(1946) "l'auberge rouge" (1951)or "la traversée de Paris" (1956).
"Le marriage de chiffon" is his first real work.It casts Odette Joyeux as Chiffon (her nickname) an aristocrat offbeat young girl who finds it hard to live in a milieu full of social conventions.Her mother (Suzanne Dantès,whose strident playing seems almost unbearable today),a widow,wants her to marry a wealthy noble military man whom she met at a railway station.Although the young girl is not aware of it,she's in love with her uncle (by marriage!).But Claude Autant-Lara's dice are loaded because even if this uncle is a flying pioneer and a broke man,he's still an aristocrat.A liberal aristocrat is no misalliance.Of course she's much younger than him,and besides he's got a mistress,but it's only a question of social class.
That's why "le marriage de chiffon" does not really satisfy.Hotheaded Autant-Lara adjusted the fire the next year and it became a wholesale massacre.Casting again Odette Joyeux as an aristocrat ingenuous person,he pitted her milieu against the plebeian one.And it was his masterpiece,"douce" ,which remains today as fascinating as it was in 1943.Such is not the case of "le marriage de chiffon" which may seem old hat for a lot of people today.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Often when I come to post a comment on something like this - A French film made in the 30s, 40s or 50s - I find only one previous comment by dbmonteuil and nine times out of ten we are in accord, especially in the case of Julien Duvivier, but he doesn't seem to think too much of this one which is sad because I quite enjoyed it. Of course dbmonteuil is French and lives in France whereas I answer to neither and I must respect his greater knowledge and access to a wider range of French cinema than myself. Nevertheless I repeat that I found this Edwardian-set tale of a young girl, Chiffon, ill at ease in the restrictive society in which she lives extremely enjoyable. Autant-Lara has an eye for period detail - her uncle by marriage, for example, is a pioneer aviator thus we are treated to several scenes of early flight and if you throw in the odd vintage car, the period dress, the lavish settings - how did they manage it under the Occupation we ask ourselves - the result is something for everyone (or perhaps ALMOST everyone. The plot is light enough with Chiffon reluctant to accept her mother's choice of potential husband in favour of the 'uncle' with whom she is in love did she but know it but as I keep saying it's all in the telling and this tale is told very deftly.
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