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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Little known today, this solid film garnered a good deal of acclaim
after its release as another example of postwar Italian neo-realist
film-making. Though not as strong an entry perhaps as some of the
better-known films of the period, Mario Soldati's movie is still quite
interesting and dramatically appealing.
The movie focuses on Riccardo Torre, a former Italian fascist authority who had been responsible for the death of many during the war and who has just now escaped from post-war imprisonment. He retrieves his young son Fabrizio at a boarding school run by a childhood friend and together the man and his innocent young son make their way toward the French border.
Folco Lulli, often seen in smaller character roles, carries much of the movie as its main character, weighed down by his evil past, yet loving of his son, at the same time he is relentlessly determined to escape justice and is not above using the boy as sentimental deterrent to suspicions en route. On the way he and the boy stay at an inn where the maid recognizes Riccardo as her former boss. Fearing exposure, Riccardo kills her and moves on with his son. In the mountains near the French boarder, they meet again three men they had encountered at the inn, two workers and a Gino and Tembien, and the "Tunisian", a guitar player. The "Tunisian" accidentally discovers that Riccardo is a fugitive when he sees a magazine photo while the group spend a night in a mountain refuge.
The scene in which the Tunisian keeps playing and singing while Riccardo, realizing he has been discovered, tries to wrest the magazine from the musician in a kind of game-dance is a marvelous little tour-de-force.
The final half-hour of the movie has the men making plans to turn the fugitive over to the law. Violence erupts and Riccardo accidentally wounds his little son though a gunshot. The fugitive's boy has taken a liking to the worker Tembien, played by Pietro Germi, and the affection is returned and ultimately the man becomes a second father to the boy once papa is apprehended and the boy is removed by ambulance.
It is interesting that the actor who plays the boy Fabrizio, Enrico Olivieri, bears an uncanny resemblance to the young actor that Germi as director in 1956 of "The Railroad Man," (in which he also acted) would select for that movie, namely Edoardo Nevola. There are similarities too between this film and Germi's "The Path of Hope," made two years later, which is also about a long trek to the French border, this time by a group of Sicilians escaping village poverty.
The movie gets off to a very deliberate start and builds up momentum as it goes along. It is a rare noir-like adventure that has some very human qualities to it as well. The settings, whether the interiors of a third-rate inn or the mountain exteriors, never fail to convince.
I think "Flight into France" joins the ranks of the good Italian films of the 1940s, of which there are a legion.
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