Just before "le Val d'Enfer" ,Maurice Tourneur produced his absolute masterpiece " La Main du Diable" which certainly influenced his son Jack's "night of the demon" (1957)
"Le Val d'Enfer" is an absorbing document about the Gouvernement de Vichy years and the Maréchal Pétain's ideology :Travail,Famille,Patrie..
TRAVAIL (Working): The opening sequences depicts the career where men sweat under a blistering sun (104°F in the shade!).
FAMILLE:(Family) : 41 year old man marries a gorgeous girl Marthe(Ginette Leclerc) who is much younger than he is .That gal was once some kind of a hooker,but she's his best friend's daughter and
besides she's so lovely.. It has often been mooted that Ginette Leclerc was a limited actress and however nobody in France used to play the bitch-with-an-angel-face as she did.She can act like a bad gal and suddenly turn into a frail human being,longing for love.The scene when her soon-to-be-husband takes her in his arms for the first time is revealing: she seems to need love,tenderness and protection,but when she turns back (and faces the viewer) her eyes reflects lie.Another excellent sequence depicts the wedding banquet :The bride,recalling Flaubert's Madame Bovary cannot stand the vulgarity and the crudeness of people around her.
In the house ,there are also the man's folks.Old people and old pieces of furniture .While falling in love with a young man who works on a boat near the career,Marthe urges her hubby to get rid of the old tables,cupboards and to replace them with Formica ones.
Next step is getting rid of the in-laws.She does not appear when they celebrate their golden wedding .Soon they feel like intruders ,they too are old pieces of furniture and they ask their beloved son to take them to an old people's home .
Actually she plans to run away with her lover :she 's pregnant by him. But accidents will happen..
PATRIE (Country): the prodigal son,who comes back from jail,wants a second chance.The father doesn't have the fat calf killed but he forgives his boy."One year in jail,that made him a man! " the neighbors say "like the army!"
"Le Val d'enfer' is remarkable because its ending is the rebuilding of the family around the son.After throwing everything out,including the modern pieces of furniture ,and the bad gal,it's time to taste the brand new world which it's never too late to build.Like an earlier work "Péchés de Jeunesse" ,"Le Val d'enfer" is lessons in Petainist moral.
A film that should not be missed.
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