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This minor gem is a lightweight romance set during World War II in the French countryside. It struck me as unusual because I didn't expect a Gallic romantic farce that included Nazis. In any event, it's well played; Deneuve is at her most beautiful; and the lush, romantic music by Michel Legrand is beautiful, too. Nice.
Another delightful French pastiche, this time set around the time of the D-Day landings in Normandy; a fine cast headed by Catherine Deneuve, Pierre Brasseur and Philippe Noiret lend themselves admirably to the spirit of the thing. LA VIE DE Château takes in everything from the issues of class difference (farm girl Deneuve is married to wealthy good-for-nothing Noiret), collaboration (Noiret's family flaunts its supposed Nazi sympathies for their own material gain while secretly despising their oppressors) and heroism (it's Noiret who ultimately emerges as the unexpected - and perhaps unwilling - hero, eventually winning back the straying affections of his wife). Director Rappeneau recently returned to the same stylistic territory and historical background with equally terrific results for his BON VOYAGE (2003).
Rappeneau has directed few films over the past four decades (just
seven) but he's created a solid body of work that has meant commercial
success even if critics sometimes expressed dismay over the casting of
big stars. I wrote about Le Sauvage (1975), expressing my pleasure at
the excellent handling of comedy between Deneuve and Montand, and the
same is true here. Deneuve is fabulous as the bored wife stuck in the
country in wartime--she's dying to get to Paris and won't let her
husband forget it. When Henri Garcin as the resistance leader shows up
at the château, she's thrilled as well as annoyed at the intrusion into
their domestic life.
The film has been made under the sign of tradition: the influence of Feyder's Kermesse heroique is ever-present (the local people trying to outwit the invaders), as well as the aristocratic life satirized by Renoir in Rules of the Game, where the habits of daily life take on great significance (Noiret complains to Deneuve about the apple cores in the basement; she couldn't care less). Now, I await with great anticipation his new film Bon voyage.
Jean Paul Rappeneau is considered as an outsider in the world of French cinema because of his scant cinematographic output.This does not mean that he has not produced works of quality.He has made many interesting films including some literary adaptations and has also worked with some of the big names in French cinema as Montand,Adjani,Noiret and Deneuve. This film called "La vie de Château" is a perfect example of laughter during the times of war.Both the lead players Catherine Deneuve and Philippe Noret look much too young.The film shows a typical quality of French people: Paris is always better than provincial towns.This is because Paris as everything which people want: discos,cinemas, theaters,night clubs and of course restaurants.The depiction of war is also very humorous as a soldier instead of fighting falls in love with a beautiful woman.This is a charming film depicting the natural beauty of French countryside.The only regret is that it was filmed in black and white.
With the director of "Zazie in the Metro", and both the star and
composer from "Umbrellas of Cherbourg", how could this be anything but
brilliant! Set in a decaying chateau during World War II, populated by
eccentrics, with Germans camping out in the courtyard while the French
Resistance goes about under their very noses.
Something like a Carry On film at times, with touches of Allo Allo. Sometimes you get the impression someone is about to burst into song - I wonder if it would have worked as a musical? Deneuve is marvelous - beautiful, and very funny as she twists her husband round her finger, and staves off advances in all directions.
A pleasing classic that you shouldn't miss, but the combination of black and white, and subtitles may be offputting to some.
"La vie de château" is little known in the US, but it was popular in
France and won the Prix Louis-Delluc. It's built around Catherine
Deneuve as a farm girl who has married Jérome, the winded scion of a
grand seigneurial family (Pierre Brasseur), and is discontented as a
result. Pent up in their crumbling château in Normandy, she longs for
the high life of Paris. Her husband, though, seems pleased to slowly
rot away, as long as the ancestral orchards keep producing the finest
fruit in the world; he bears himself as the final fruit of a noble
line. His widowed mother (Mary Marquet) lives with them, playing the
piano with a lofty air while ceiling plaster falls into the wires. She
dotes on her son, but can't help reminding him that he's not the man
his father was. His father-in-law, a growling old peasant with a keen
grasp of the situation (Henri Garcin), reminds him of the same thing.
The château is mortgaged to the hilt, and the former tenant is in a
position to buy it cheaply, and become the new seigneur. Into this
set-up parachutes Philippe Noiret as a member of the Resistance, sent
to spy out the German troop placements in the neighboring countryside.
For our Normandy farce is set in the spring of 1944. The ineffectual
husband is indifferent to the German invaders, and unaware of the
activities of the Resistance: we may have a small fable unfolding here.
Both the German colonel and the French patriot want to dress Deneuve in
finery and take her to the Paris of her dreams but the sticking point
is that her husband really does love her, and an unpredictable gallant
lover awakens under his placid surface.
Deneuve has none of the usual technique needed for playing farce, but the serene quality of her beauty keeps her from straining at it. When the young wife's frustrations make her fly into anger over trifles, the flights are truly jarring and spiky; the comedy is in Brasseur's limitless capacity for absorbing these darts or is it limitless?
The fine score is by Michel Legrand.
2003 is a perfect time to talk about Rappeneau's directorial debut because he has now, 38 years later, returned to the subject of WW11 in 'Bon Voyage', which I have commented on in the appropriate place. Of course it helps any fledgling director to have Philippe Noiret and Catherine Deneuve co-starring in his first time at bat but, like virtually all French directors he had a tasty track-record as a screenwriter behind him - he had, in fact, co-scripted 'Zazie Dans Le Metro' five years earlier in which Noiret starred as a drag queen - and it shows in the way he handled this film. Something of a ground-breaker at the time - it wasn't 'done' to find charm, drollery, to say nothing of laffs in Occupied France til Rappeneau showed the way - it paved the way for so many others. Well served by his cast, especially the two principals La Vie de la Chateau is a delight from start to finish, a souffle lighter than air as only a French chef could concoct. With a revival long overdue any video/DVD copies lying around should be snapped up.
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