Jean¨-Paulin broached many genres : militarist works (Trois De saint-Cyr),adventures tingled with eroticism ("L'Esclave Blanc" in which a native appeared topless in 1936,historical tale ("Echec Au Roy" ) ,fantasy and horror ("L'Homme Qui Vendit Son Ame Au Diable").
During the first days of the Occupation,Maréchal Pétain suggested a movie should be made in aid of the Secours national; as the cast and credits read,they all heed the call:"the greatest actors of the French cinema are here":actually only a handful of these actors (Vanel,Fernandel,Madeleine Robinson,Charpin....) are still remembered today;none of them received any fee.
This is a re-telling of the story of the nativity ,set in Provences ,in the present time -in their last conversation,Vanel and Fernandel hint at the hard times to come :"we need to use our good side,our finer feelings,we need to all stand together" .
A couple of refugees arrives in a village:he is a cabinet maker ,she's pregnant and the innkeeper refuses to give them a room;they wind up in the cowshed of a farm where she has her baby ,the very night of Christmas ,complete with canticles and even three travelers who play the Magi .
Although this is not a movie some French people do remember proudly,it retains a pristine charm even today.
Probably inspired by Alphonse Daudet's short stories,the screenwriters intersperses their story with Provençal Legends (those of the blacksmith and of the donkey fit well in the plot);the depiction of the Provençal evening gathering,with its log and its Fougasse (sort of brioche)does not lack the human touch.
"Cinema De Vichy" ,that's for sure,but if you are interested in the past of the French cinema,you should watch it.
NB : although it was postponed till December 1948 in Paris ,its premiere did take place in Vichy in December 1940 ,the 24th.
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