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It was a long way from "Menschen am Sonntag" (Germany,1929) to "Die Ratten" (Germany ,1955).It was a long way from "La Crise Est Finie" (France,1934) to "L'affaire Nina B. " (France ,1961).
Anyway,although a FRench production,"l'Affaire Nina B." is definitely a German movie,even if the lead is Pierre Brasseur.
It is another unfairly overlooked work by Robert Siodmak,a director who took the film noir to its absolute peaks in America ."Nina " is no longer a film noir,although in several respects ,it is.Now the gangsters have been replaced by the war criminals and the spies,the femme fatale (Nadja Tiller replaces Ava Gardner and Yvonne de Carlo)has turned into a whore hired as a secretary .
The cast and credits set the tone: split Germany ;two bits of map which read "DEUT" and "SCHLAND " ,like two pieces of a jig saw,a la Saul Bass For a man like Siodmak,who was driven away from his country when the Nazi rose to power,it meant a lot.
A movie which was ahead of its time,it anticipated the spy thrillers about the cold war .Pierre Brasseur is a blackmailer "specialized" in war criminals.Anyway,all the characters of the movies are "Ratten" (rats):from the corrupt lawyer to the bosses who pretend they help the third world to the pitiful chauffeur,a loser no longer to react to events anymore.
Extraordinary scenes: Brasseur visits one of his " customers" : he tells him about what he "did" in the war: so there were 81 persons killed instead of 80? Who cares?Someone cares : the criminal's seventeen-year old son heard it all.No burst of anger,no tears ,no melodrama,but this boy "who could have been part of the victims" and "who's already heard his school mates talk about his dad's past" cannot take it anymore.
And there's this sublime finale.Like in "die Ratten" ,which also took place in Christmas time and which included a ball,the b..... celebrates his triumph.But it will be short-lived.As the clock is striking twelve and the revelers are breaking into the traditional "Auld Lang Syne" , Mister B .collapses on his table,struck down by a heart attack (but hasn't he swallowed his pills?" His magnificent wife walks towards him:maybe it's the triumph of the femme fatale after all those American years.
With its use of cinemascope,its icy pictures and its murky atmosphere ,"L'Affaire Nina B." has a deadly charm.
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