During the cold and rainy off-season a man arrives in a seaside town and, giving his name only as Pierre, checks into the only hotel which remains open. His arrival arouses curiosity and a ...
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During the cold and rainy off-season a man arrives in a seaside town and, giving his name only as Pierre, checks into the only hotel which remains open. His arrival arouses curiosity and a degree of suspicion, as people note that he appears to know the area, yet gives no explanation for his presence at that bleak time of year in the dead-end town.
His sensitive performance as Prince Myshkin in L'IDIOT (1946) had brought international attention, and his performance in THE DEVIL IN THE FLESH (1947) made him a star; with his next two films, LE CHARTREUSE DE PARME (1948) and UNE SI JOLIE PETITE PLAGE (1949), Gerard Philipe's position as the premier leading man of French cinema in the post-war period was assured.
Just as PEPE LE MOKO, QUAI DES BRUMES, LA BETE HUMAINE and LE JOUR SE LEVE had established the Jean Gabin persona in the 1930s (what Andre Bazin had termed "the tragic destiny"), so these four films established the Philipe persona, the sensitive young man overwhelmed by destiny. In UNE SI JOLIE PETITE PLAGE, the small seaside resort out-of-season, with its fog, its desolation, and its ramshackle buildings, is a perfect setting for this story of lost souls seeking connection and (possible) redemption. Madeleine Robinson, as the young woman working at the inn, is Philipe's counterpart: a sullen girl battered by circumstances who nevertheless is touched by the fragility of the young man. The fact that, on a realistic level, Gerard Philipe does not project the hardened facade of a criminal is rather the point: the point of a star persona. In this case, Philipe's projection of an intensely isolated, even alienated, psyche which defined the existential dilemma that was being defined by writers such as Sartre and Camus in the post-war epoch, was really enshrined in this movie.
Philipe would prove to be a more versatile actor than initially assumed; his humor, his athletic vigor, and his exuberance can be seen in movies like FANFAN LA TULIPE and POT-BOUILLE. But UNE SI JOLIE PETITE PLAGE shows Philipe at the apex of his portrayals of tortured youth, a prototype for such stars as Montgomery Clift and James Dean.
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