During September Chile is celebrating the Bicentenary of its Independence from Spain, and there will be special screenings of Chilean films and documentaries from the 1920s up to the 2000s at the La Moneda Cultural Centre (La Moneda is the name of our Government House).
Last Wednesday I attended the screening of a restored 35 mm print of "El Ídolo" (The Idol), a film directed by the French director Pierre Chenal, who left France before or during WWII and made films in Argentina (4) and Chile (2) during the 1940s and early 1950s. From what I inquired the film apparently was deemed to be lost for years and this print appeared in Buenos Aires, Argentina -if I recall correctly- and is the only existing print of the film. The Cineteca of La Moneda had it restored with the cooperation of the Tolouse Cinemathèque in France. The restoration was OK, but not great. I suspect that the source material was quite poor and that was done with the print was the best that could be achieved. Some portions of the movie had several cuts in the dialogues and "bumps" that affected the film's continuity.
The picture was filmed in Chile Films Studios and several Chilean locations (The Mapocho river, Downtown Santiago, Teatro Municipal, Museo de Bellas Artes, Viña del Mar et al). The sound quality was fair and the script had some incoherences, but all in all, it was a unique and a pleasant experience for me, not being used to this kind of events. I have the feeling that the film was intended to be in one way and it ended being different or was heavily edited. I read some reviews from 1952 that said that there were many changes during the filming and indeed there were many characters and some things did not make much sense. Apparently the screen play was heavily tampered with.
Like in Chenal's "El Muerto Falta a la Cita" (1943-4) "The Corpse breaks a date", which I saw some days ago, there's a death and it was unintentional, at least the first one of this film, because afterwards there are two more deaths which are cold blooded murders.
The title is sort of misleading because the "idol" is the main character (nominally) played by Argentinian actor Alberto Closas, who's a renowned Chilean star of Cinema and Stage (Jorge Arnaud) and leads an enviable life. He's married to a beautiful, voluptuous, sexy, alluring woman (played by Chenal's wife, French actress Florence Marly who starred in such Hollywood films as "Sealed Verdict" (1948) opposite Ray Milland and "Tokyo Joe" with Bogie) named Cristina Arnaud. But the film is not focused completely on the idol's life and career.
Since Marly has a heavy French accent it's kind of strange that her younger sister Elisa - played by Argentinian Elisa Christian Galvé- has in turn a heavy Argentinian accent. Elisa is in love with her sister's husband.
Cristina is dissatisfied with her life and after a quarrel with her husband goes to Viña del Mar (famous city near on the Central Chilean Coast) in order to put her feelings "in order" accompanied by Doctor Enrique Bermúdez, who's a friend of both (Chilean actor Eduardo Naveda). Bermudez's in love with Cristina, but she's still in love with her husband, but temporarily angry with him. Then an attempt of robbery takes place in her hotel room and she's killed accidentally after fighting with the burglar, who we'll discover much later on- is a sensitive out-of-luck artist known as Lemos. After discovering that she's dead, Bermúdez returns to Santiago undercover, fearing that he will be blamed for Cristina's death and the he'll stain her memory if it is discovered that he went with her to Viña del Mar.
Arnaud hires a private eye to find the man who killed her wife and the detective finds out that Bermúdez was the man who went with her to Viña del Mar and thus, he supposes he's the killer. Arnaud confronts Bemúdez and apparently kills him and the tries to commit suicide, but the truth is that the doctor's partner (Doctor Salinas) was the killer, because he wanted to get rid of his associate (they both own a Clinic attended by rich ladies) after he discovered that he was guilty of many patients' deaths due to malpractice. Arnaud survives but is not convicted because he is declared mentally insane and committed to an asylum.
Salinas is finally exposed and is murdered by Lemos who figures out everything quite rapidly without much explanation -plot holes galore here- because he feels responsible for Cristina's accidental death and Arnaud's disgrace. Elisa and Jorge Arnaud (The Idol) face a new life together.
The plot sounds quite confusing and maybe a little bit contrived the script has obvious flaws-, but it was highly amusing for me to get to see a Chilean film from 1951, with decent production values, in good form and a fine cast.
Notwithstanding the foregoing I feel that the script of "El Muerto Falta a la Cita" (1943-4) was superior.
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