In Argentina, one daughter of patriarch Madariaga is married to a Frenchman while the other is married to a German thus leading to a crisis when Nazi Germany occupies France and some Madariaga family members fight on opposite sides.
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In Argentina, the family man Julio Madariaga is the patriarch of his family and considers his farm the paradise on Earth. One of his daughters, Luisa Desnoyers, has married the Frenchman immigrant Marcelo Desnoyers and they have one son, the playboy Julio, and one daughter, the gorgeous student of Sorbonne Chi Chi. His other daughter, Elena von Hartrott, has married the German Karl von Hartrott, and they have three sons: Heinrich, Gustav and Franz. In 1938, Heinrich returns from Germany for a family reunion and when he tells that he has joined the SS, the displeased Julio Madariaga has a heart attack and dies. When France is occupied by the Germans, the family reunites in Paris and Franz is the Nazi administrator in France. The alienated Julio has a studio where he paints, and has a love affair with Marguerite Laurier, the wife of the owner of a newspaper Etienne Laurier that is fighting in Belgium. Meanwhile Chi Chi joins the French resistance and is arrested. Julio uses the ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Despite heavy promotion by MGM, this film was a critical and financial failure, most critics comparing it unfairly with the silent classic, and Glenn Ford's Julio with that of Rudolph Valentino. Re-appraisals over the years have been rather more kind, and the film is now seen in a better light. See more »
When Karl is proposing a toast in honor of the family reunited at last (1h 01'), we can see Julio successively in the mirror and in close-up. In the mirror he has a glass in his left hand, but in close-ups the glass is in his right hand. The left-right hand images alternates three times. See more »
Vincente Minnelli's updating of Vicente Blasco Ibanez's novel is an absorbing melodrama which, as another viewer has noted, must have been watched by Visconti before he made his film The Damned a few years later.
The film begins with the Desnoyers family gathering for dinner following the return of Heinrich (Karl Boehm) from a spell in Germany where, to the disgust of grandfather Julio, he has been indoctrinated into the ideology of the Nazi party. The grandfather is played by Lee J. Cobb and it's a blessing that the old boy pegs it during dinner because Cobb not only chews the scenery but the sets and props as well. Despite this, the lines are clearly drawn between the two sides of the family: Heinrich and his father Karl (Paul Lukas) on one side, Julio No' 2 (Glenn Ford) and little sister Chi Chi (Yvette Mimieux) on the other.
Julio is a playboy with no interest in the war; he prowls swish parties for available women, sidling between arguments of the impending war as he closes in on his prey. Sadly, Ford, usually a likable enough leading man, doesn't possess the necessary predatory swagger to pull of the role. In fact, he is so badly miscast that he seems to be adrift throughout the film, as if trying to figure out how he was ever chosen for the role (Minnelli wanted Alain Delon, apparently, and we can only imagine what an altogether different interpretation he would have given to the part).
The predicament in which the Desnoyer family find themselves is wholly absorbing as the war slowly tears its members apart. Most imaginable sea-changes in personal opinions are explored during the course of the story, from the discovery of a hidden integrity on Julio's part, to disillusion on the part of Karl, the WW1 veteran who allows himself to be swept up in the triumphalism of the Nazi's rise only to find his son becoming irrevocably morally corrupted by the same experiences.
The movie never won any awards, which is probably how it should be, but it provides an intelligent and literary exploration of a fascinating subject that makes it easy to watch despite its bloated running time.
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