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Town trollop Safia, much against her better judgment, falls in love with Matteo, a beggar and mystic in the native quarter of Sirocco. She flees to France, first as the mistress and then wife of a wealthy archaeologist, and bears him Matteo's child, whom he believes to be his own. Complications arise years later when Matteo finds Safia, and a ring of blackmailers uncover her past and exposes her to her husband. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
A first version was filmed in 1927,but it seems forever lost.Now only Chenal's version is relatively easy to see.Made just before "le dernier tournant" (the first version of "the postman always rings twice"),"la maison du Maltais has got a pretty good reputation.Does it deserve it?Much more than "l'alibi' (1937)...but much less than "la foire aux chimères" (1946).
In a chocolate box Arabian country -which recalls Duvivier's "pepe le moko" which also features chanteuse Frehel- a poetic young dreamer falls in love with a whore,Safia, with whom he dreams of a home and a family,in his father's house ,the magic "maison du Maltais".He gets Safia pregnant but ,as he does not come back from a dubious voyage (smuggling),she leaves the country for France where she marries a chic wealthy man.
This is pure melodrama and John Stahl would not disown it;everything's here:the prostitutes in their brothel,trying to make ends meet;the unfortunate girl,dying in her hospital bed;the gentleman who believes the little girl is his daughter;a blackmailer.
Matteo lives in another world,the world of the tales from the Arabian nights;when he awakes ,it's too late.Safia is told that the only way to get by is not to tell the truth to men.
As always in a Chenal's movie,the cast is first-class:Dalio,Renoir's favorite actor as Matteo;Vivianne Romance,who often gets parts of a bitch displays a lot of humanity here:she almost plays two parts,the hooker and the socialite;Louis Jouvet in a short part of a private eye(and blackmailer).
Some scenes are close to fantastic and predates Chenal's towering achievement "la foire aux chimères" :Safia,leaving her hard-won bourgeois manners home ,and playing the hooker again to fool Matteo;the "maison du Maltais" which seems to come from the Arabian tales;the strange dummy which Matteo's pals use to ridicule him.
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