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Coup pour coup (1972)
Rebels with a cause
A movie which must have scared lots of people for,to my knowledge ,TV screened it for the first time this very year;in the theaters ,its release was secret and anyway it would have certainly failed ,since it completely refused the star system (which many so called subversive movies in the Wake of the events of May 68 did not avoid :'Tout Va Bien " by His Majesty Godard starred Yves Montand and Jane Fonda).The final cast and credits do show a collective work:the non -Professional (in the majority) and professional actors are treated on an equal footing with the technicians ,the screenwriters and the director .
Far from Godard's intellectual abstract didactics ," Coup Pour Coup" is close to documentary (cinema verite)and some entire scenes seem to have been improvised .
In a textile factory ,women are exploited by the local boss,MR Boursac (what a name : "purse bag"!);the Tycoon divides and rules,sitting comfortably in his desirable mansion :his foremen (and forewoman:only one!)throw their weight around;tired of being treated like slaves ,the workers rebel :the strikers have occupied the place and they take the boss hostage ,in spite of some older workers' reluctance .It was the time of women's lib's coming of age and thus enormously significant :their husbands generally support them but some of them still show a macho attitude ("who's gonna cook my steak for lunch?).It's interesting to notice the farmer's solidarity who sells his milk at a cost price (how amazed the woman are,when they compare it with the price they pay in the supermarkets).
No star ,no central character ,the crowds are the heroes ,in the grand tradition of Eisenstein ;the director is no match for the Russian master,but his movie is never dull and can be considered a time capsule of the post -May 68 era .
Retour à l'aube (1938)
Cinderella's got a brand new dress .
"Retour A l'Aube" belongs to Decoin's light-hearted rosy comedies but its last part foreshadows his brilliant series of films noirs in the forties,which he would continue in the following decade,with relatively less artistic success.
Sorry,Didier (the precedent user) but I do not think that it's one of the best works by Decoin.It takes place in a chocolate box Hungary ,where you pay ,as everyone past infancy must know,in Francs (!).The first scene (the wedding) is given a folk treatment complete with costumes and music ,but it does not fool people .
Darrieux portrays some kind of Hungarian (!) Madame Bovary ,whose marriage to a station master has left her a frustrated woman :she dreams of romanticism and the train she takes to get to the big city will allow her to become Cinderella for one night.
As I wrote above ,the most interesting thing about this okay movie is the elements of thriller which bursts into what was a charming dreamlike tale ;this is the key to Decoin's future as he will make his way through the forties ,with "L'Homme De Londres" "Les Inconnus Dans La Maison" and culminate with these overlooked desperate movies such as "La Fille Du Diable" (IMHO ,his masterpiece)or ""Les Amants Du Pont Saint-Jean"
Le fils (1973)
In spite of Yves Montand,the movie was not a big success for Pierre Granier-Deferre ,a director whose works found a huge audience in the seventies,although the critics,still Under the Nouvelle Vaguelette's thumb,were more reserved .Today,they seem to have stood the time quite well:ground-breaking ,they were absolutely not.They were good stories,well told,well acted ,reviving the grand tradition of the "Cinema De Qualité " ,a label which was never pejorative to my eyes.
Take "Le Fils" (=the son) :although its hero is a NY gang leader -a Corsican who emigrated -,it is not an action-packed movie : on the contrary ,it is a pastoral ,ecological (Mr Montand would reportedly have qualified the movie so)and quiet atmosphere,with a vague menace hanging over the hero's head ,like a sword of Damoclès .We can feel something threatening in those luminous splendid landscapes (the movie was entirely filmed on location in Corsica;the director thanks the local inhabitants for their cooperation) but the screenplay focuses on life in a place where time seems to have stood still : the old dying mama ,who has probably never left her village ,the teacher still using inkwells whereas on the mainland the pen -holder was fast becoming a thing of the past,the brother guarding his sheep ...
The movie moves very slowly and it may have discouraged some viewers ,who,after the first pictures in a desert New York city ,may have expected a genuine thriller ;it is actually vignettes of Corsica circa 1970,before tourism en masse:the most moving moment is when Montand and his teacher recite La Fontaine's "Les Animaux Malades De La Peste":the old man does not remember the words ,but his former pupil does ,a way for him to remember a time when he was young and innocent .Although he stays in touch with his accomplices (phone calls to American),we feel his regret not to have lived a simple safe life like his sibling (Frederic De Pasquale) who married his teenage squeeze (Léa Massari) he actually always loves.
Like this? Try these ......
La Loi Du Survivant (José Giovanni ,1967)
Le Paria (Carliez,1968)
The Confession (2011)
Being and nothingness
There is something I cannot understand;it is really beyond me;how can a movie so highly rated,a rating it thoroughly deserves , be totally overlooked by the users,as far as comments are concerned ?after watching it,I was expecting at least one hundred of them!Much to my surprise,I'm the first one to write about it.
This very short work (70 min ,but no filling!),bitter and utterly uncompromising ,will perhaps be more appreciated if you were brought up a catholic ,but every viewer looking for "something different" will be rewarded.
The action takes place in a confessional ,where a man who's just killed someone -and is about to repeat this crime this very night- wants a priest to give him absolution.
There are many flashbacks ,and little by little ,we understand the sinner can show compassion ,pity ,and that it is not a black and white world,but surely a gray one.We guess the unexpected final twist halfway through the movie,but the interest does not suffer for it .
The movie deals with religious concepts such as free will ,the relativity of what's good and what's evil and the existence of God himself is called into question;it could also be seen as a metaphoric meeting with the Devil ,but it's up to you to decide,all in all, who the real satanic being is.
There're only two actors (the others are supporting for a very short time)but they are merely prodigious :Kiefer Sutherland portrays an ambiguous character,a killer who sometimes resembles a black Robin Hood (the extraordinary and totally unexpected scene of the computer),and who,from the start,got a raw deal ;Matching every step of the way is aging John Hurt's tormented priest who believed he could redeem himself and escape from a horrible past .
Even with violence kept to the minimum ,this is a pessimistic terrifying movie,which leaves no hope to the viewer .It might shock true believers ,the words do not cut ,they bite;but they inspire the vital extremism of the confrontation.
70 min of your time;it's not much and you won't forget "the confession"
The only movie featuring Fernandel AND his daughter.
In America ,Shirley Temple was then the toast of the audience ;so what about casting Fernandel's real-life daughter,Josette, as his co-star?In a story which borrows from "little orphan Annie":isn't this Young heroine cute ,lovely? Hasn't she got a mother suffering from tuberculosis and forced to leave her daughter to get cured?Doesn't she meet by chance an old millionaire ?hasn't she got a (toy) dog? Besides ,Josette has a neighbor with a big heart ,a bank clerk (Fernandel) who gets fired but it does not matter because his ambition is to become a music hall singer .
Becoming a star does not prevent Fernandel from being cheated by a self-interested calculating woman;but the little girl keeps her weather eye open and she wants her friend to become her papa (in the movie).
The daughter is pretty annoying in the long run ,and it was certainly wise not to cast her in another movie.Christian -Jaque ,a seasoned director who made very estimable works ,seems powerless to sustain interest .
Word to the Wise:do pick up Christian-Jaque's " Les Disparus De Saint-Agil"(made the following year) instead :he directed children in it too,but with much more successful results.
Sergil chez les filles (1952)
Death of an old servant in a shady house
This is pretty discouraging stuff;only people interested in Paul Meurisse 's Pre-"Diaboliques career might be interested .
"Chez Therese" is a house used by lovers as a discreet meeting-place ,not to say a brothel ("it's a respectable home" say the housewife and her husband full of bonhomie).Hence the title (=Sergil visits the gals).Paul Meurisse is cast as detective Sergil ,whose investigations are so muddled the viewer feels like giving up before the disappointing solution.
It is as if the director,five minutes before the ending,suddenly appreciated how dour it all was and desperately attempted to enliven his flick by last-minute devices ,such as the sequence around the funicular railway -which they do not ride anyway-and the culprit graping the gates ,a la "Pepe Le Moko" .But it's all too little too late.
Rome Express (1950)
The ladies vanish...
Christian Stengel's two most intriguing works were saved by his actors : "Minuit Quai De Bercy " by Von Stroheim and the obscure " Pas De Pitié Pour Les Femmes " by Michel Auclair .
"Rome express" is also an intriguing work ,but its problem lies in the director's inability to choose between the pure thriller and the comedy;the indefatigable Jean Tissier (who made at least 200 movies ,almost always supporting parts)is here ,but what is lacking is good lines :no black humor ,no really funny situation .As far as the thriller side is concerned ,suspense is nowhere to be found.
The main interest is that almost the action takes place on a train à la "murder on the orient express" (the novel was written at the time).Five ladies (but only four of them show up) are invited on the Paris-Roma train by a mysterious correspondent who claims he is in search of a soul mate .
One by one ,the ladies vanish (but don't expect sir Alfred Hitchcock!) ;might this secret letter writer be a serial killer?
Despite a good potential ,the movie drags on.
Police judiciaire (1958)
Double murder at the two peonies hotel
Very close ,in its structure and its approach ,to Hervé Bromberger's "Identité Judiciaire" (1951) ,"Police Judiciaire " has a prominent documentary side;it's not a detective who solves the puzzle;it is a whole team,helped by laboratories,punch cards (!) and witnesses who finally succeeds ;the main story is a whodunit and if the audience guess who the culprit is long before the end ,it does not matter ,for it is the way they investigate that gives the movie substance.
Probably influenced by "detective story" (1952), the movie had big ambitions: around a double murder in a crummy hotel,there are three other investigations ,but the director is not William Wyler and it falls a bit flat ,except for the mini-plot of Daniel Cauchy and his father ,but this is too underwritten .
Anne Vernon is cast against type as a hooker (who claims she is an artist) ."Go and play "Phaedra" at the Comédie Française!" said ironically the detective (Yves Vincent).
Due lettere anonime (1945)
Two anonymous letters :the title is symbolic.The fascist years mean informers,cowardice.But there were resistant fighters too,and the movie 's purpose is to show the two sides,through a woman's fate (the great actress of the era Clara Calamai,famous for the second -the first one was French- and IMHO best version of "the postman always rings twice " ,"ossessione") .
This woman ditches her fiancé ,a soldier coming back from war ,and lives with Tullio ,a collaborationist .
The movie tells the woman's redemption;once a selfish bitch,we see her rebel against her lover's despicable attitude ,till she finally becomes an heroine by saving the whole network.
The movie ,one of the two first Italian works given over to resistance (along with Rossellini's "Roma Cita Aperta") ends on an optimistic note,which people did need just after all those dark hours.
Une manche et la belle (1957)
The phone did ring that fateful night.....
The title means that you've won a game and finally everything in a card or a sports game ;it is a hint at the game Alfred Adam plays with his mates while Henri Vidal is doing very bad things behind his back.
Henri Verneuil,the pretentious Nouvelle Vague was always putting down,is the perfect Saturday-night-at-the-movies director.His movies are commercial,for sure ,they are not art house cinema ,but this director,who displayed respect for his audience,never pretended to work any other way,as latter works would show ;they are actually all very entertaining ,and to my eyes , not in the least likely to make me yawn my head off,as it is often the case with Godard's meaningful ,deep,would be masterworks.
Henri Vidal ,two years before his death,was the most popular actor of the era ,although addicted to drugs;his Partner,sexy Mylène Demongeot ,appears topless in a brief sequence ;this actress ,who shone in "Les Sorcières De Salem " (from Arthur Miller),got lost into mediocrities in the sixties,when they wanted her to become another Bardot;and Isa Miranda is the wealthy aging woman,prole Vidal marries for her money ;it becomes soon obvious he 'd rather have her secretary (Demongeot) and the lovers decide to get rid of the burdensome woman who enjoys poetry ,unlike his rude uneducated hubby.
Vidal's "alibi" is a bit too implausible ,but one cannot deny the suspense is sustained till they find the dead(?) body of the wife;and there's another unexpected twist ,for the hot secretary leads a double life .An user pointed it out,the final scene disappoints a bit,but it is all in all a good thriller with a touch of humor thrown in for good measure.