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This odd pairing had already happened once the year before with "la veuve
Couderc" ,a George Simenon adaptation ,with fair results.
Like the first one,"les granges brulées " (=the burned barns :nothing burns in the movie ,mind you,it's the name of Signoret's farm)takes place in a rural area ,to be precise in the Jura Mountains,in the Franche-Comté.Signoret is cast again as a tough farmer who dominates her whole family (her daughter is played by her own daughter Catherine Allégret).A woman's corpse is found near the farm.And a judge (Delon) comes to the place to investigate .The family provides the usual suspects and on with the show.
Well,the detective plot is never exciting and its solution devoid of interest.What matters is the depiction of the family's clannishness (which Jacques Becker had brilliantly tackled in "Goupi Main Rouges" thirty years before ),the beautiful snow-covered landscapes and the young ones 'longing to leave their native mountains for the city.Delon and Signoret are both good and give sensitive performances.But most people think they did a better job in "la veuve Couderc".Nice score by Jean-Michel Jarre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If all you knew about this prior to watching it was that the title translates as The Burning Barns you might be forgiven for anticipating a touch of the Southern Gothics, especially if you were on nodding terms with Faulkner and Tennessee Williams both of whom have written about barn burning as if it were a minor Art form requiring both skill and finesse and at worst a semi-respectable/legitimate occupation. You would, however, soon be disabused because what we have here is yet another story in a rural setting - in this case the Jura - involving a large family headed by matriarch Simone Signoret who owns a farm named The Burning Barns. The body of a young woman is discovered on land owned by Signoret and serves as a springboard to put the somewhat dysfunctional family under a microscope. Alain Delon arrives to head the investigation and the fun/fascination is watching two generations of French actors teaming up again in the wake of the previous year's success Le Veuve Coudroc. There's little in the way of thriller, mystery element but Signoret and Delon are augmented by the likes of Paul Crachet (who appeared with Signoret in L'Armee des Ombres), a young and almost unrecognizable Bernard Le Coq, Miou-Miou and Signoret's real-life daughter Catherine Allegret. It's very watchable and definitely recommended.
"The Burned Barns" (1973) is generally a low-key and subdued film. It
takes place in a farm area that's cold and snowy 5 or 6 months out of
the year. Simone Signoret plays an energetic matriarch who runs a farm
with her husband, Paul Crauchet. The murdered corpse of a young city
woman is found in the heavy snow near her Mercedes-Benz not 5 minutes
from Signoret's farmhouse. Alain Delon arrives to investigate.
The family members include 2 sons and 2 daughters. Jean Bouisse plays a journalist. Renato Salvatori is an innkeeper in the nearby town where Delon lodges. It is rather fun to see the two reunited again as they were in "Indian Summer" and would be again in both "Le Gitan" and "Flic Story". Delon and Signoret previously appeared in "Is Paris Burning" and "The Widow Couderc".
Delon works on the theory that a passing vagabond is an unlikely culprit because of the weather. He focuses on the Signoret family. She is determined to keep her father's farm going, utilizing her family. The farm doesn't make much money. The offspring cannot save much if anything. If the land were sold off, it could find higher-valued uses than milk cows. That's what they'd like to do in order to convert their labor into cash.
As Delon works through the case, attempting to break the shield of Signoret's protectiveness, family skeletons and dysfunctions emerge. The story is really about this family and Signoret's single-minded devotion to the farm. Unprofitable family businesses sometimes survive only by infusions of labor extracted from the family members who then feel exploited and want out.
The magnetism of the acting of Delon and Signoret lift the film as best they can. The photography and setting help too. The mystery also lurks throughout. The film's focus is really Signoret's character. That portrait is moderately intense. Her character is not given to outward emotional displays. She's restrained much of the time and self-controlled. Her conflicts with her family members are not painted in thoroughly. Delon seems too deferential or respectful to her at times, making his character seem rather diffuse.
Although the film seems to fall short of really scoring and making a big dramatic impact, the strong performance of Signoret is memorable.
not the story is important in this case. but only the new meeting between Signoret and Delon. a woman and her family in a small community. a murder. a judge. and an artistic meeting who becomes revelation, maybe not surprise but splendid exercise of use the characters nuances. two great actors and inspired music, beautiful images and the atmosphere of a village are ingredients of a film about values, choices, family spirit , justice. Simone Signoret is the same and this fact is, in same measure, a virtue and a sin. Delon gives a good sketch for a tired man , part of his job and shadow of his life. a film who reminds many others. but who remains special for the tension who defines it after the lost of story details.
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