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Noel Annequin is the black sheep of a social-climbing bourgeois family who married for love and stayed in the country while his professional brothers were improving their social position. When his beloved wife, dying of an incurable disease, begs him to end her misery, he finally agrees, but his desire to atone for his "crime" runs afoul of his heartless family, and all would be lost without his rebellious niece, played by 22-year-old Jeanne Moreau. Written by
eric gans <email@example.com>
1950 was the year of euthanasia ,at least in French cinema.Two movies dealt with this harsh difficult much-debated subject:André Cayatte's "Justice est faite" and Richard Pottier's "Meurtres" .
Richard who? Richard Pottier! An unfairly overlooked director who did not produce masterpieces but made decent interesting works.His " Fanfare d'amour" -which is impossible to see in France nowadays ,a DVD please!- was remade by Billy Wilder as "some like it hot" .His "Caroline Cherie" ,funny amorous adventures , was the forerunner of the " Angelique" saga in the sixties.His detective films were not bad either ("la Ferme aux Loups" "Les Caves du Majestic" ).But "Meurtres" will probably remain his finest achievement.
The subject (euthanasia) was more than daring at the time.Whereas Andre Cayatte ("Justice est faite" ) remained mysterious about the heroine's intentions (did she try to put an end to her mistress's suffering or did she want to latch on to a substantial amount of dough earlier?),Richard Pottier and his writer (Henri Jeanson:who else?) are not afraid to make us attend the whole thing: the wife's intense suffering,the helpless husband ; her plea: " sooner or later,I'm gonna die;please give me an injection";her death as she tries to thank her husband but she cannot speak anymore.
The husband (one of Fernandel's rare tragic performances:he is prodigious)was a schoolteacher's son .His father bled himself dry for his three sons:two of them made their way of life :a lawyer and a doctor but the third one (Fernandel) stayed with his dear father till his death and has modestly lived since .The sequence when Fernadel talks about his daddy is extremely moving.
In direct contrast to him,we have his brothers : two mean bourgeois so called respectable men,with hateful wives (one of them is dumb,the other disdainful).When the desperate brother wants to give himself up,they are not prepared to accept it: better sending him to an insane asylum! Once again ,Henri Jeanson's lines spit out their venom."They have two shrinks : the first one tries to find the touch of reason in a mad patient's mind;the second tries to find the touch of madness in a sane patient's mind." Guess which one the brothers will choose.These brothers and their wives think that only their lives are worth preserving: the others ,who cares? who cares if a home nurse is sent to jail?who cares if a sane man is sent to a hospital for the rest of his life? Richard Pottier's film could be as dark as Allégret's ,Duvivier's ,Decoin's or Clouzot's films noirs,if it weren't for the hero's niece ,wonderfully played by Jeanne Moreau.She's on the unfortunate hero's side ,she refuses bourgeois conventions,and she predates woman's lib by almost twenty years.
"Meurtres " : not to be missed.
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