At first sight,Duvivier seems to follow in André Cayatte's footsteps.At the time,the latter director had launched a crusade against all the miscarriages of justice and had begun to champion any good cause going.But further acquaintance shows this:"l'affaire Maurizius" is a Duvivier movie .In Cayatte's movies,the problems are finally generally solved: in "Nous Sommes Tous Des Assassins" ,René was granted a pardon,in "Les Risques du Métier" ,the schoolteacher was rehabilitated.Even when the story turns black ("Le Glaive et la Balance" or "Justice est Faite") ,Cayatte " manages to limit the damage" so to speak.One should note that the young lead ,Jacques Chabassol,was part of Cayatte's "Avant le Deluge" (1953).
In "l'Affaire Maurizius",no one was saved:the judge has lost his son who is ashamed of his father ,the son has lost all his illusions,the gorgeous reluctant femme fatale has turned into a prematurely aged lady,her former lover is now living on the fringes of society,and the chastised innocent ......his fate is sealed as soon as the film begins...
....because,when the movie begins,"L'Affaire Maurizius" is an old one everybody wants to forget.That an innocent man may have spent seventeen years in jail does not seem to move the bourgeois judge (Charles Vanel),jealous of his privileges.Little by little,through flashbacks,scenes of the past resurfaces again .The judge 's son believes in justice and wants to save the prisoner(Daniel Gélin)who was "burried alive" .But Waremme (Anton Walbrook) tries to explain to him that the society scoffs at the law:while he is talking to the desperate young man,two dancers appear as shadow graphs on the window.This is the key to the film and to Duvivier's black world.
"L'Affaire Maurizius" is wrapped in mystery: all the flashbacks are filmed in places which seem secret and where a danger seems impending.The film sets are bare when they depict the past,emphasizing the characters who,unfortunately,with the exception of Vanel,sometimes display a tendency to overact.This misty atmosphere will emerge again in later works such as "Marianne de Ma Jeunesse" or "La Chambre Ardente".
Some objections to "l'Affaire Maurizius" remain: overacting (Anton Walbrook verges on ridicule),and Madeleine Robinson's underwritten part:she barely appears ten minutes whereas she plays a pivotal role in the screenplay.Her relationship with her younger sister (Eleonora Rossi-Drago) is only skimmed over whereas it is essential to the plot.
However,like almost all the movies Duvivier made ,it is a must: his pessimism leaves the viewer no hope : the last scene could be subtitled "out of the blue ... and into the black ,they give you this but you pay for that,and once you're gone you can never come back.." (Neil Young)
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