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Le signe du lion (1962)

 |  Drama  |  3 May 1962 (France)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 957 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 8 critic

An American in Paris lives by sponging off his working friends, and throws a party using borrowed money when his rich American aunt dies, believing firmly in his horoscope.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Jess Hahn ...
Pierre Wesselrin
Michèle Girardon ...
Dominique Laurent
Van Doude ...
Jean-François Santeuil
Paul Bisciglia ...
Willy
Gilbert Edard ...
Michel Caron
Christian Alers ...
Philippe
...
Fred
Jill Olivier ...
Cathy
Sophie Perrault ...
Chris
...
La patronne de l'hôtel
Jean Le Poulain ...
Le clochard
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Storyline

Pierre Wesselrin is a 40-year-old American who lives in Paris by sponging off his working friends and various wealthy acquaintances. He receives a telegram saying that a rich aunt has died, so he throws a party, using borrowed money of course, and invites all his friends. After discovering that his aunt disinherited him, his luggage is impounded and he is thrown out of his apartment. All his friends are now away for the summer, or are working outside Paris, so he is forced to wander the streets and become a clochard. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

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Release Date:

3 May 1962 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Az Oroszlán jegyében  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Eric Rohmer's first feature film. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinémathèque (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Musique pour un...
Written by Louis Saguer
Performed by 'Gerard Jarry'
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User Reviews

 
LE SIGNE DU LION (Eric Rohmer, 1959) ***
2 July 2006 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

I've said often enough that the fact that Eric Rohmer (together with Yasujiro Ozu and Jacques Tati) is a film critics' darling is something of a mystery to me. Still, I've persevered and watched 9 films of his so far (I could have sworn they had been less myself!) and I'll probably rent MY NIGHT AT MAUD'S (1969) as well in the near future...

Anyway, since this film came out during that initial burst of creativity which propelled the French Nouvelle Vague movement onto the international stage, I did not wish to miss an opportunity to watch it even if only via an Italian-dubbed version. Indeed, some of its detractors decry the fact that, being Rohmer's first feature-length film and released as it was in between Truffaut's THE 400 BLOWS (1959) and Godard's BREATHLESS (1960), the film is tinged more with a predisposition towards cine-verite' (and perhaps mercifully so) than with Rohmer's uniquely sensitive style which he subsequently became renowned for. Having often found his films relentlessly talky and frustratingly mundane, those of his fans which have yet to experience this one (or have perhaps stayed away because of this difference in directorial ideology), I will reassure them by saying that the film's first third was typically Rohmerian. This section, however, was alleviated for me by the surprising (and amusingly silent) appearance of Jean-Luc Godard who plays a party guest (who even seems to come out of nowhere) moodily walking through the living room, smoking a cigarette and forever fiddling with a gramophone! Other notable 'friends' contributing to Rohmer's first feature-length venture are screenwriter Paul Gegauff, producer Claude Chabrol and actress Stephane Audran.

The story deals with an American ex-patriate (Jess Hahn) who apparently inherits a vast sum of money from his dead aunt and consequently celebrates himself into a state of extreme poverty. However, as luck would have it, he had misinterpreted the telegram and all his inheritance effectively went to a distant cousin. The film's lengthy (and mostly silent) middle-section consists of nothing but an increasingly disheveled Hahn walking the streets of Paris, going in and out of telephone boxes and hotel lobbies asking after his "friends" in the hope that they'll lend him a sum of money enough for him to get a roof over his head and a loaf of bread into his belly! While at first I was ready to beg for something to actually happen during this section of the film, in hindsight this was perhaps its highlight and certainly a remarkable sequence coming from Rohmer. Of course, the continuous location shooting was not only required by the film's narrative but must have proved fundamental in keeping the production costs down.

The third and final section, then, sees a reversal of fortune for Hahn's character. After taking up with a clownish tramp (who sarcastically dubs him "The Baron") and performing their routines on the streets to the bourgeois restauranteurs, a journalist friend chances upon him in the gutter one night whereupon he informs him that Hahn's rich cousin has met with a fatal car accident and that he is now effectively a member of high society! As they drive exuberantly off in the journalist's car, Rohmer ends the film by panning to a wonderfully inspired shot of the constellation (presumably to justify the title). Incidentally, I'm of the Sign of Leo myself...


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