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East of France, December 1917. In a village situated close to the front but protected from it by a hillside, the body of Belle de Jour, a little girl, is found by the canal. Judge Mierck, assisted by an Colonel Matzev representing the Armed Forces, investigates the case in his own way. The fact that the young victim's corpse lies a few yards from the manor of Destinat, the withdrawn, haughty-looking district attorney, who has always despised and humiliated him, doesn't escape him. To make matters worse, a witness has seen the magistrate not only talking with Belle but patting her cheek as well minutes before the little girl was strangled. But vengeance is one thing and class privilege another... Written by
I wonder if I have ever seen a sadder film than Yves Angelo's "Les âmes grises". As of the beginning the characters of this unfortunate story SUFFER (from dementia, from the pangs of childbirth,from widowhood, from physical and mental torture,from separation,from wounds inflicted by war) and/or DIE (I numbered one soldier killed in action, a murder, a death in childbirth, two suicides, an execution by a firing squad, a knife-fight victim, to say nothing of the neighboring battlefield that crushes young men's lives every minute). To be sure, "Les âmes grises" does not qualify as a feel-good movie, but does it mean that you should shy away from it? I would say yes if you feel depressed before entering the movie theater but no if you feel fit enough to put up with the movie's oppressing atmosphere.
First, because, in spite of everything, Angelo and Philippe Claudel (his co-writer and author of the original novel) avoid complacency. They do show us a world which has become heartless but it is a world in which beautiful people still live, even if they find it hard to survive there.
I really loved the sweet, romantic, sensitive schoolmistress; I got tok
now and respect the blunt, withdrawn district attorney despite his lack of social graces; I was charmed by the radiant look of the angel-like little Belle de Jour, I felt the love uniting the gendarme and his wife flow in my own veins. And I think the message is clear : let's all avoid absurd conflicts (general like WWI or personal like those generated by faithless judge Mieck) in order to spare those who deserve to live.
A finally "feel-good" message you can benefit from only after a testing two hours'screening.
On the other hand,the cinematography is relevant to the subject with its cold tones and its well-chosen natural settings . And no actors could have been better than Jean-Pierre Marielle (intriguing and gradually revealing his share of humanity), Marina Hands (sensitive and moving) and, in his last part before his untimely demise, Jacques Villeret who interprets this horrible judge to perfection.
Leaving the the theater, I realized I felt sad but not hopeless.Hence I draw the conclusion I had just seen a very good film.
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