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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