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Two clubmen discuss the occult, introducing three weird tales: 1) Plain, bitter Henrietta secretly loves law student Michael. Then on Mardi Gras night, a mysterious stranger gives her a mask of beauty that she must return at midnight. 2) At a party, palmist Podgers makes uncannily accurate predictions, later telling skeptic Marshal Tyler that he will murder someone. The notion obsesses Tyler, with ironic consequences. 3) High wire artist Gaspar dreams of falling, then loses his nerve. He recognizes Joan from his dreams, and falls for her. Will any of his dreams, involving Joan and disaster, come true? Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Even when he is far away from his native France,Julien Duvivier is among the best.
He had already tackled the fantasy and horror genre which he broached in the thirties with such works as "le Golem" (1936) and his remake of Sjostrom's "la Charrette fantôme " (1939).But these two works do not compare favorably with his masterpieces such as "Un Carnet de Bal" "Pépé le Moko" (both from 1937)"la Belle Equipe" (1936) or "la Fin du Jour" (1939).
"Un Carnet de Bal" was a movie made up of sketches ,although it featured the same female character all along the way."Flesh and fantasy" connects the links of the chain:it is a fantasy and horror movie made up of sketches .Here ,Duvivier creates a dreamlike atmosphere far better than his two thirties attempts:he conjures up pictures like a true magician -who was admired by both Ingmar Bergman and Orson Welles,even if the self-conscious nouvelle vague used to despise him,Like all his old colleagues.
The three stories are adapted from Oscar Wilde:the first one recalls sometimes "the picture of Dorian Gray" ;the overture is mind-boggling :the drowned man by the river,the disturbing and almost frightening crowd whose masks create some kind of mardi gras nightmare. An ugly girl -with stunning use of lights- finds the beauty of the soul that is in everyone ,even in herself.
The real meat lies in the second segment which features a sensational EG Robinson whose part predates Fritz Lang's "woman in the window" by one year.A fortune teller predicted a man that he would kill someone:it becomes a maleficent obsession,and Duvivier astonishingly cuts loose all the visual tricks at his command (mirrors,shop windows,spectacles ) and literally mesmerizes both Robinson and the audience.Very very langesque!Duvivier,whose pessimism easily equals the great German director's ,seems to believe that crime is a part of the human nature.(I remember actress Danielle Delorme saying :"when I asked Duvivier why my role in "voici le temps des assassins " (1956) was so evil and what could explain her satanic behavior,he simply answered "evil people are evil,period.")
The second segment segues sharply into the third one which takes place in a circus.An acrobat star -Boyer- dreams that he falls from the wire while a woman in the audience (Stanwick) is watching,a woman he's never met before.On a boat he meets her afterwards and they fall in love.Another strange dream puzzles the hero who ,although disturbed and worried,wants to go for broke.
Back in France ,Duvivier took the film made up of sketches to its absolute limits while mixing all his subplots in a seamless whole in "sous le ciel de Paris"(1952) The nouvelle vague tried this kind of "movie in segments" but they never surpassed Julien Duvivier,one of the Masters of the FRench cinema whose work ,both French and American is crying to be discovered.
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