In winter of 1938, Paris is crowded with refugees from the Nazis, who live in the black shadows of night, trying to evade deportation. One such is Dr. Ravic, who practices medicine illegally and stalks his old Nazi enemy Haake with murder in mind. One rainy night, Ravic meets Joan Madou, a kept woman cast adrift by her lover's sudden death. Against Ravic's better judgement, they become involved in a doomed affair; matters come to a crisis on the day war is declared. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Here we see Ingrid Bergman pulling out all the stops to portray a simple character in a more complex manner, and she succeeds brilliantly. She takes a girl who is merely rather 'loose', weak, and grasping, and turns her into a torrid emotional Rubik Cube puzzle, which no amount of twisting can solve. She gives depths to shallow water undreamed of in the annals of the sea. Matched opposite her is the perfectly behaved but deeply in love Charles Boyer. This was when things were kept cool on the surface, while the fires raged beneath, i.e., it is the 1940s. This film is the Paris refugees' version of 'Close Encounter', and Boyer is just a more romantic Trevor Howard who drinks wine instead of tea. The idea that this film could be remade later with the highly mannered and emotionless Anthony Hopkins in the lead is absurd (Hopkins does 'intensity' but not feelings), and even more so that Ingrid Bergman could be replaced by Lesley Anne Down, of all people. (Best to forget that remake, it was too awful.) Now back to the old pros: Boyer and Bergman, and the sky is alight with hopeless love, and searing tragedy darkens the dawn. Director Lewis Milestone goes at it full throttle, to superb effect. He had directed an earlier novel by the same author, Erich Maria Remarque, eighteen years before ("All Quiet on the Western Front', 1930), so he had a deep feel for the material. What is more, Milestone was a European and a refugee. The underlying theme of the film is the plight of the stateless flotsam and jetsam refugees thrown up by the War. One of Charles Laughton's finest performances is found in this film, as a German Gestapo chief scouting out Paris, whom Boyer, working with the Resistance, befriends in order to kill. The Lionsgate DVD of this film lacks ten minutes, including the scenes where Laughton gets his just deserts, and certain scenes casting aspersions upon the moral standing of Bergman's character. (Let us hope for a restored cut DVD one day.) This is one of the great films of the immediate postwar era, with a cast that takes its emotional story to immense and tragic heights.
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