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"Falbalas" in Becker's career,is the follow-up to "Goupi Mains-Rouges".
The second one took place in a very peasant milieu,the former
introduces Philippe,a Parisian top designer,as well as a
heartbreaker.(Raymond Rouleau who would direct "les sorcières de
Salem",from Arthur Miller with Yves Montand and Simone Signoret)The two
works could not be more different,and it's hard to believe they were
made by the same director.
So the Don Juan falls in love with his friend Daniel's Micheline (Micheline Presles) and seduces her.But she will discover how selfish and frivolous he is and she will leave him.He realizes that he did love her deeply and it's too late.
Here lies the connection between "Falbalas" and "Goupi mains rouges".Philippe becomes mad ,dances with a dummy dressed up as a bride.This recalls Goupi-Tonkin,one character of the precedent work,but it's not as convincing:Philippe's lunacy appears too abruptly,in a totally unexpected way,whereas Goupi-Tonkin's one grows little by little to a stunning and logical final.
Thanks to the two leads,"Falbalas " is nevertheless a commendable work. The best is the documentary side,the depiction of the fashion world.And even if the ending seems unlikely,Becker has such a fine way of filming it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jacques Becker is clearly one of those directors who don't like to repeat themselves, perhaps in this respect it is fortunate that he only made thirteen complete movies (plus several 'scenes' in another four) or he may have been obliged to revisit previous territory. When he shot Falbalas he had just given us a minor masterpiece Goupi le mains rouge set deep in the French countryside and a remote section of it at that. Now he moved gracefully and without breaking stride into the world of Parisian haute couture and urban sophistication. One marvels how, in 1945, he found not only the budget but also the materials for a succession of gorgeous gowns. The protagonist is a celebrated dress designer who thinks this gives him the right to treat everyone like dirt, seduce and abandon models and other employees, friends etc. Eventually he does the same with the fiancé of his best friend. Alas, he falls genuinely in love with her, only to be rejected by both. As these things will it all ends in tears but what a great ride, Becker is in top form and Micheline Presle shows why she was so highly rated albeit far too briefly - less than a dozen years. There is terrific support from the likes of Gabrielle Dorziat, Jeanne Fusier-Gir and Raymond Rouleau in the lead. Not to be missed.
Philippe Clarence is not somebody you want to work for. Unfair with his
most faithful employee, Solange, his provider & friend Daniel Rousseau
(Comédie member Jean Chevrier), his devotional former girlfriend
Anne-Marie, his current girlfriend Lucienne, all her employees,
obviously his accountant, all his other girlfriends (she keeps their
dresses, with tags for their "periods")... but for Micheline Lafaurie,
Daniel's bride. His new conquest takes the place of everything. His
collection of course, some sort of respect for her in house ex, . But
no, her place at his private wardrobe "the cemetery" as Lucienne aptly
names it while arguing.
Everybody must have their favourite character, mine is Gabrielle Dorziat as Solange, the only one that, maybe is not under the influx of passion, has a cool head to see all that happens, making things happen and being slightly grouchy and accepting, as it must be :). She is always putting up with everything, this would be her phrase: "Don't try to understand, it's not the moment now!". Paulette (Fusier-Gir) is her sidekick, there is also plump "Juliette", and stout Lucille, all vital for contrast with the beautiful women and the scarce male figures. For it's a women's world! Useful for us males to veer into something we probably would never have access to. The contrast between the customers ("baronesses" carrying dogs), the working women of the workshop, the models and the customers is "social stratification" put into good use.
Françoise Lugagne is also perfect. The way she walks out of Clarence's says it all. In a film that feast female beauty one should not be afraid to be frivolous. My "sexiest model" was Christiane Barry as "Lucienne", the sour girlfriend. Who has a fun paranoid scene at the bar on which the happy couple is having a date. "They are poking fun of me!!" she smirks to long suffering Mr. Murier, who only wanted his Camembert. The way she leaves into a cloud of smoke is a great brief scene! Not a great actress, she is given the best diagnose lines: "you're a madman! And something about his end that you'd better forget :). So is the lanky young blonde employee who hates Anne-Marie "puritanical", she calls her in the beginning, and while placing the chairs in order for the collection, is instrumental into her fate, mind you.
Jacques Becker made a time capsule of a little film, to be savoured in future generations. I can only glee in nostalgia by looking at the way people dressed, their naive pastimes (the ping-pong game followed by the huge family), and fashion that was actually nice to look at. And beautiful models, not skinny like nowadays :)!
Art Direction, Costume Design (Max Douy), even hats ("Gabrielle", not on IDMB) are well made! Music accompanies the scene and the "suspense" moments finely. The sound is pretty bad, as one would expect from a post WWII movie.
There was one horrible dress, the one Philippe gives Micheline to wear for their first date. She says "I look like a hen" and she does! In the film it is shown that everybody approves of it, but I wonder ... :).
Watch is as a portrait of a narcissist, if not for really being entertained.
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