This finely crafted movie takes us convincingly back to the France of some 100 years ago. Against the setting of a small provincial town, it shows how its prominent citizens mix up with the officers of the local cavalry regiment. Citizenry is represented here by the excellent female star Michèle Morgan, the military equally well by actor Gérard Philipe. The magnificent interaction between the two of them makes this movie going: Morgan, playing a divorced Parisienne running a ladies' fashion shop, has herself seduced at last by officer Philipe's tireless efforts. But at that very moment their relationship takes a turn for the worse.
Their tragedy gets more dimension, and is softened at the same time by the succesful development of another love. A young local girl (Brigitte Bardot) finds her cavalry officer, played by Yves Robert. The sincere human warmth between them contrasts with the stiff etiquette in the Morgan/Philipe-affair.
'Les grandes manoeuvres' (= the big army-excercises) is a very well made movie. I only think it a little too mechanical, as director René Clair forces you to watch it with hardly any emotions. Not even Brigitte Bardot is able to change that.
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