At sea,sailors have got to make do with what they have got;a black sailor pins up pictures of naked girl on the wall (a vicious lad who will die tragic death :isn't it a bit racist?)The two other sailors are good loyal guys .One of them ,François (Georges Marchal),is in love with....the figurehead,the bust of a gorgeous woman: one has to search his memory to find in movies of the late forties such a scene in which the hero caresses the wooden statue ,an oddly erotic moment .The others have to wait for the next harbor (Marseille)to find prostitutes in the low dives ;in direct contrast with the rotten microcosm of the seediest part of the town,we have the nice world of the country,the canal which quietly flows between two rows of trees, the lock keeper and his cute (but not very hot) wise daughter (Mony Dalmes) Although he is attracted by the good girl,the sailor is still dreaming of the figurehead and it's becoming a obsession.One fine day he meets his idol :a spoiled rich kid who lives in a desirable mansion ;he is crude -and she tells him so- and she plays cat and mouse with him.As the man's desire is growing,she seems to become more and more inaccessible .Highly talented actor Georges Marchal -one of Bunuel's favorite French actors :he would be featured in three of his works-gives a portrayal which shows every nuance of his fragility ,frustration and desperation;Madeleine Sologne ,as cold as ice ,a remote beauty ,is ideally cast as the femme fatale .
He won't enjoy peace of mind till he assuages his passion ,and he will ,in a way Bunuel or even Hitchcock ("Vertigo") would have certainly loved.
The ending is a bit of an anti-climax ,remembering the precepts of the Vichy cinema,but ,in that context ,it makes sense : the hero does not desire his "figurehead" anymore since he "had" her ;the last line is not out of place.
All in all,this is another of these obscure little minor gems the French cinema used to offer before it was salvaged (or destroyed ,depending on whom you ask) by the Nouvelle Vague .
Like this? Try these ......
"Le Grand Jeu" ,Jacques Feyder,1934 "Cet Obscur Objet Du Désir " ,Luis Bunuel,1977 "Marie Poupée " ,Joel Seria,1976.
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