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Charles Boyer ,whose Hollywood career was brilliant,comes back to his
native land and portrays his future old age .He used to be (and still
believes he is ) a lady killer ,but ,as he is short of the readies,he
has to make money in a very special way: teaching the good manners .His
pupil is a young man (Felix Marten ,a singer discovered by Edith Piaf
but whose career was short-lived)who is in love with the beautiful
Jacqueline (Michèle Morgan).It's not difficult to guess what will
This film met mixed critical acclaim but hindsight displays its charm.And anyway watching Arletty (as Gazelle) in one of her last parts will always make my day.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'll go anywhere to see Arletty so when I stumbled upon this DVD in Paris I fell on it like a wolf on a sheep. Arletty is billed third and though her role is substantial she is very much second fiddle to Michele Morgan who, if Arletty hadn't been on hand, would have captured every eye in the cinema. By 1958 Arletty had seen better days, arrested, imprisoned and kept off the screen for roughly four years, either one of which may have contributed to her premature ageing but as my good friend dumenteuil didn't quite say I would rather watch Arletty on the worst day she ever had than, say, Catherine Deneuve on her best day - and I say that as one who admires Deneuve and indeed French actresses in general it's just that when it comes to French actresses there's Arletty and then all the rest. Henri Verneuil shot this confection, set in La Belle Epoque with all the glamour implicit in that period, in 1958 thus playing right into the hands of the petulant new-wavers, led by Truffaut, who despised well-made films with solid screenplays, shot in studios and oozing style which is just what Maxime does with every frame. Charles Boyer has the breeding but no longer the money and is reduced to teaching good manners to upstarts, one of whom falls for Michele Morgan's classy widow and prevails upon Boyer to act as go-between. It's all froth of course but it's froth that features Arletty so it should not be dismissed lightly.
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