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This was the last movie that Jean Gabin and Arletty made together for Carné, the absence of Jacques Prévert as screenwriter (as he was on Le Jour Se lève) shows, the plot is rather confused and indecisive. Nevertheless, the photography on location in 1950s Paris is beautiful, many shots look like Brassai photographs, and the climactic scene in the seedy local boxing-ring has some of the same atmosphere as the great scenes in the popular theatre in Carné's masterpiece, "Les Enfants du Paradis". Arletty, by then over 50, is experimenting with playing a less glamorous, rather frumpy part, but she is still fascinating to watch. The thrill is in the ambiguous relationship between Gabin, as the ageing boxing coach, and his blond, sometimes hysterical protégé. There is an extraordinary scene in which he goes to get him back, when the boy has run away and is living in a run-down Algerian hostel. It isn't a great film, on the level of Hotel du nord or Les Portes de La Nuit, but it is well worth seeing for anyone curious about the French cinema in the period between the Occupation and the beginning of the Nouvelle Vague. It is available on video in France.
There are interesting films in Carné's post Prévert career:"Thérèse
Raquin" and "les tricheurs",to name but two.But this one is not among
them.The screenplay,written by Carné and Jacques Sigurd -who was also
Yves Allégret's best script writer- is rather weak and the dialogs seem
to have been made" in the style of Jacques Prévert",but few lines are
really potent.This is the clichéd story of a poor young man of whom a
former boxer(Gabin) wants to make a champion.But his wife(Arletty) is
not prepared to it and gets in the way.Besides ,the relationship
between the poor lad -an orphan who always loses-and a posh girl (à la
"Rose and Jack" in a movie whose name escapes my mind)never rings true.
15 years had passed since Carné directed Gabin and Arletty in his masterpiece "le jour se lève" and time had really taken its toll.Both seem jaded,particularly Arletty whose part is thankless .You should try Julien Duvivier's "sous le ciel de Paris" instead of this.That's really old hat!
L'Air de Paris, a film about the dreams and realities of a young boxer by the name of André Menard (Lesaffre) is set in 1950's Paris. The film starts rather slowly and the plot only picks up towards the middle of the film as André and his bourgeois love interest Corinne (Daëms) begin to get closer together. The difference of class status between the two makes compelling viewing, especially when Corinne attends a boxing match to watch André fight, largely frequented by the rowdy, working class Parisian faithful. The boxing scenes are convincing with Jean Gabin playing the role of André's coach effectively as the wise old ex-professional. In the earlier scenes of the film, Gabin and Arletty really connect and seem very natural alongside each other. The underlying theme is of the internal struggle of André and Corinne to break free from their social backgrounds and from being stereotyped by society and their close friends. This film is a tale of two classes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I knew going in not to expect too much but I'm a glass-is-always-half-full type and always prepared to be pleasantly surprised. It started well; just reading the credits, seeing the name Jean Gabin followed immediately by that of Arletty the whole supered over some great shots of Paris, not really 'touristy' but 'real' Paris, kick-started the drool gene and the evocative Ballade de Paris by Francis Lemarque sustained and lifted the anticipation another notch or two when the credits promised Yves Montand to sing it. Alas, Montand's no-show, no-hear was the first disappointment. Arletty was, of course, magic and proved she can do dowdy as well as the next drudge. Gabin was magic too and although they worked well together somehow the whole fell a lot short of the parts. A listless love affair between two less than dynamic performers didn't help - even in middle age Arletty and Gabin would have sparked them out of sight and the 'boxing', coming years after The Set-Up, Body And Soul and Champion, was a joke. Great to see Arletty and Gabin in anything but what it might have been if Carne was still working with Prevert.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A train entering Paris has to briefly halt before entering the terminus
because of works on the line. One of the workers is André, he stares up
at the train and notices a "beautiful" lady in one of the carriages,
she looks back but we are not sure whether she really notices him.
Inadvertently she drops a good luck charm out of the train window which
falls onto the ballast. When the train has moved on, André picks up the
charm and keeps it .... just in case !
Later on, our worker André meets up with Jean Gabin in a hospital. Jean Gabin runs a boxing club and takes on the young lad to train him in that sport and also in some ways to replace the son he was never able to have. His wife, Arletty who would have preferred to leave Paris and head to the Côte d'Azur, where she has just inherited property, is not too happy at the idea of having to remain in Paris and with her husband devoting most of his time to the young lad. The young boxer also meets by chance with the lady he saw in the train and starts a brief affair with her.
The strong points of this film are not its plot but basically everything else ! The black and white photography and picture quality is excellent and special care seems to have been given by the cameraman to precise lighting effects, "contre-jour" and the like. Certain quarters of Paris, like the rue de Belleville, les Halles in the centre and most of all the banks of the Seine look magnificent. Musically the title is a bit of a misnomer ! Although composed by Francis Lemarque, the tune "L'Air de Paris" does not appear in the film AT ALL ( why did they choose it as a title ? ), the title theme is the even better "Ballade de Paris" composed by the same Francis Lemarque and we are also treated to ample doses of "Toi, tu ne ressembles à Personne" composed by the same author.
So the film is plastically beautiful and musically enthralling ... Gabin is his usual old self, pretty good I thought, a rôle a little similar to that in "Voici le temps des Assassins". Arletty has an ungrateful rôle and comes over as an unpleasant person. I did not know the actor who played the part of André nor the actress who played the lady with whom he has a brief affair but I was quite happy with their performances but was hoping for a happier ending.
PLot-wise, then the film is weak and flabby - basically if you're not into boxing, you may find it boring at times though if you are a boxer or like that sport, you may well have a field day. There's a particular tense boxing match in "La Centrale" which lasts a good few minutes and is pretty violent. Apart from that and the brief romance, there is not much to speak about ! It's a pity that Arletty was not used to better effect but the importance of the "boxing" element in the film implies that there was not much room for improvement plot wise.
Still, it is interesting for anyone who loves seeing films of 1950's Paris .... and for the music of Francis Lemarque !
L'Air De Paris is a French film directed by a well known French
director who in his day was apparently responsible for some brilliant
pieces of French cinema. Now I have very little knowledge in French
cinema and am truly unaware of what brilliant French cinema is. I have
to say this film is certainly not it.
The film is about an ageing boxing coach who is considering giving it all up as he struggles to find the champion he longs to train. His hope completely vanishes when his best chance dies at a young age. However he meets a man who claims to once have been a good boxer and the coach decides that perhaps there is one last ray of light.
He trains up this young man but he is not particularly great at the sport and our trainer realises he has his work cut out. Meanwhile part of the reason for this boxers struggle is because he is in love with a beautiful woman. One who is out of his league and is of a much superior class. The coach must convince his boxer that boxing should come first and love can't stand in the way.
Our boxer makes it as champion but in this time his love for the woman has grown and he refuses to take part in any more events as he wants to be with this woman. The trainer must do what he can to change his student's mind, claiming that it was a woman that ruined his chance when he was a boxer and he doesn't want to see this man's potential slip away in the same way his did.
Straight away I had an issue with this film. The coach deciding to take this man on without looking at how good he is and without asking for any money is ridiculous and then when he steps into the ring he is shocked to see how bad he is. Well if he had watched him first he would have realised this. In reality an established boxing coach would at least do some research; it just seemed far too easy to be able to move the film along. To me this man's boxing was bad, but as far as I know the director could have been intending on his style to be good. I just don't know. Put it this way Audley Harrison would knock this man down in one. When it comes to his title fight the match seems to be played out in real time and it is just so dull. It isn't boxing; it looks like two drunken louts having a scuffle in a car park. If you have ever seen some Charlie Chaplin films, the one's where he is boxing, then you can imagine what these fight scenes looked like.
There is also very little story for us to grasp a hold of. I'm still not sure if it is about the boxing or love and which one of the two's story we are following. I found myself not caring for either. So much of it seemed completely unrealistic. The boxing, the love, even the friendships. Nothing was put in place and nothing made any sense.
There were a few scenes I did like. In the opening five minutes there are a few witty comments that did have me laughing and a couple of scenes where the power shifted between the boxer and love interest were pleasant but overall there just wasn't enough in this film for me to get excited about. I will admit I wasn't expecting too much but after doing a little research on the director I thought that perhaps I could have been in for a bit of a surprise, I can tell you I wasn't.
I've not seen many French films and have not been a fan of the few I have. I am unsure as to whether this director made the ones I have seen but if he is one of the best in France then I won't be watching any more French films anytime soon. A poor effort.
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