Luis Saslavsky ,a minor but talented director of the fifties is like the hungry caterpillar from the celebrated book for kiddies.He ate something of many other films or directors,and yet the results are pretty good:"premier mai" retains a freshness which can still grab today's audience.
He stopped and had a snack at the Clair /Carné restaurant: the local dance seems to come from "14 Juillet" (1933) or "Hotel du nord" (1938);besides ,there 's the scene from the communion meal,which we found in "Hotel du nord" too.
He had a delicious meal at the Becker inn :one recognizes the populism of such works as " Antoine and Antoinette" or "Edouard et Caroline"(1947 and 1951)
He had an ice cream at the Italian neorealism restaurant where cordon bleu Vittorio de Sica was a sans pareil cook.Yves Montand and his son recall sometimes a lite "Ladri di biciclette" (1948) while the old man at the police station could be a distant relative of "Umberto D" (1952).
He had a coffee at the Wyler's cafe:the police station where you find shady fellows-whom the " notables" help-,whores,old men mistreated by their shameless families ,nuns,you name it,recalls that of "Detective story" (1952)
The screenplay is very thin ,it's not much of a plot ,but Saslavsky made the best of it:there are a lot of characters and many subplots (actually there's no "central"plot ): two young lovers ,a father(Montand) waiting for his wife's delivery,a dive where Montand's friend(Maurice Biraud)fleeces the idiots ,a grumpy open-handed delivery man..Everything happens on the first of May and there's lily of the valley everywhere .
The first of May,Labour day ,might have a political meaning ,given Yves Montand's opinions ;at the time he and Simone Signoret were the exalters of communism (he sang in Moscow,invited by the Russian government in the late fifties).There are veiled hints in this 1958 movie,but "premier mai" is definitely not a political movie.
The caterpillar became a many-coloured butterfly ,made of everything it had eaten.
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