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Ferruccio De Ceresa
Young, handsome, dashing but cynical, Octave Mouret arrives in Paris, determined to conquer the belles of the capital. His first attempts are not too successful though as he is rebuffed by Valérie Vabre, the neurotic wife of the landlord of the block of flats he is accommodated in. As for the affair he starts with Caroline Hédouin, the married owner of "Au Bonheur des Dames", the shop where he works, the least we can say is that it lacks passion. But he does seduce Berthe, a girl he refused to marry when her mother tried to force her on him, now that she is married with another. He will finally achieve his end when Caroline, now widowed and needing a man to help her manage her business, asks him... to marry her! Written by
It's a pity people think Duvivier is a "fifties qualité France " director ,like the precedent user .Actually he was already here in the twenties and he reached summits in the thirties with such gems as "la belle équipe" "carnet DE Ball" "pépé Le moko" or "la fin Du jour".That is not to say that it was downhill afterwards.Some of his finest works came later as marvelous film noirs such as "panique" and "voici Le temps Des assassins" bear witness.
"Pot Bouille" is precisely the "voici Le temps Des assassins" follow-up.After such an impressive work ,everything would be necessarily a letdown.And alas such is the case here.Duvivier's skills for desperate films noirs is not well applied on a Zola adaptation:"Pot Bouille" ,the 10th volume in the Rougon-Macquart saga ,is more a chronicle than a linear story.A lot of subplots interfere ,some of which have been -perhaps wisely ,because of the censorship of the era- passed over in silence:for instance,the maid who delivers her baby unbeknown st to the Bourgeois in the house is nowhere to be found in this adaptation.
Duvivier needs a compact screenplay,and his bite is most of the time inefficient here.There are some good things though :Jane Marken ,as the bourgeois matronly woman,who desperately tries to get her daughters a beau marriage shines in every scene she's in.But Gérard Philippe is not well cast as Mouret,being not cynical enough;besides the happy end is not faithful to Zola :Mouret was to be the main hero of his following novel "au bonheur Des dames" ;but in "pot bouille" he does not occupy the central place,because of the huge amount of characters.Duvivier's approach is too polite ,too clean to deal with Zola successfully.
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