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La croix des vivants (1962)
The weight of the world
Ivan Govar's name is completely forgotten today. Not that it has ever been famous... And yet this Belgian filmmaker is definitely out of the ordinary. (Guy Bellinger)
This is my last comment on an Ivan Govar film for I have reviewed all his small filmography;and this is probably ,in spite of a very low (and to my eyes,totally unfair) IMDb rating,his best effort .
It's based on the medium-length film of the fifties "Nous N'Irons Plus Au Bois" ;like it,it is inspired by the famous parable of the prodigal son ;it features the main characters of the 42 min work :Yan,Gus,Maria;even the father is represented here by an uncle and the pure Young girl by a wistful aristocrat;and the half-wit who appeared in the house near decay is here a fully developed character .Both movies begin with a press article although "La Croix Des Vivants" only reveals the beginning of the story.
"La Croix Des Vivants" ,completely absent of the French "Dictionnaire Des Films, " boasts a sometimes sublime cinematography and an impressive cast ;if the screenplay loses steam in the second third,it regains its strength in the final segment .
Yan (Giani Esposito) is born under a bad sign: he was denied his share of the inheritance by his stepfather who wanted to favor his own son,a mechanic ,Franz.The Gospel according to saint Luke
Yan was falsely accused of the death of his father,and although he was acquitted ,when he comes back to his village ,everybody turns their back on him ;although the priest(Gabriele Ferzetti) urges his flock to welcome the unfortunate son,the villagers attend the service for show :they are like the snake under the rock which simple-minded Sylvain (Roger Dumas) shows to his old protector in school .Yan is so tired of life,in spite of the contract he signs ,that he refuses to fight and is beaten to death by Franz ;although he is sexually attracted by Gus's lover ,Maria ,he knows that his true love for the mysterious riding girl (Marika Green ) ,under a cold aristocratic father's thumb,is only a dream.
Gus ,the good friend ,has himself an over-possessive mother ,who does not even try to defend Yan when Franz takes the law in his own hands :although her appearance is short,the great Madeleine Robinson makes all her scenes count and gives a performance of a mother worthy of Tennessee Williams .
Unlike in "Nous N'Irons Plus Au Bois" ,the most complex character is that of Gus who outshines the biblical hero who bears his cross;Karl Heinz Boehm -universally known in Europa as the nice emperor Francis-Josef in the Sissi saga ,but who also starred in much more absorbing works such as "peeping tom" ,"the four horsemen of the Apocalypse" and "L'Heure De Verite"- is the stand-out in a topflight cast.He portrays a handsome unhealthy dandy,who goes to Church on Sunday ,but who treats his lover (Pascale Petit)as a whore :he tells his friend that if he wants some sex with her ,he does not care;he goes as far as to tell his mother that she's the only way for his mentally-retarded brother to make love.
Memorable scenes: -the priest at the calvary cross ,imploring a deaf God in a desolate landscape ,superbly enhanced by the use of the wide screen.
-Yan watching the ball in the castle,watching this girl he'll never be allowed to love ;this scene almost segues from a dreamlike sequence to the the harsh reality in the dancing hall where the populace is waiting for the sacrificial lamb.
-Gus ,taking Maria to the Church ,as though she were a bride.
I wish Govar had made more movies like this one ;if you should see only one of his works,this is definitively the one to choose
Une main a frappé (1939)
Gaston Roudès was the odd-job men of the Belgian cinema :after his version of "La Tour De Nesles" (famous for her orgy scene ,but which was eventually surpassed by Abel Gance's remake ),he tackles the thriller.
The title "Une Main A Frappé" (=a hand struck) promised a suspenseful movie;but the plot is so weak even someone who has never read a detective story in his life can guess the whodunit ten minutes after the crime.Besides ,the movie lacks tempo -like his early talkies such as "Le Carillon De La Liberté"- and drags on and on;and if it were not enough,he "explains" his solution as though his audience were all morons.
The most pleasant moments are the comic reliefs :Milly Mathis shines in her part of a Marseillaise gossip ,always claiming she can tell the whole thing to a bunch of Concierges;Jeanne Fusier-Gir is a funny two-bit fortune -teller who uses tarots and who claims she is descended from the pharaohs ("just call me Cleopatra",and whose apartment smells of sardines ("it's not sardines ,it's my secret Egyptian herbs").Pierre Larquey (later a teacher in classic "Les Diaboliques") plays two parts :needless to say ,he is more credible as a tramp than as the distinguished owner of a racing stable .
Le carillon de la liberté (1931)
And we"ll gaze upon the chimes of freedom......
.....if Jacques ,the painter ,reneges on his foolish passion for Nora,a hysterical matron who wants to keep him in her baroque castle ;the scene where the fair knight climbs upon the winded up drawbridge ,then pursued by a pack,it has to be seen to be believed! One of the first talkies by Gaston Roudès,it bears the appropriate scars of its era: the playing is grandiloquent,old-fashioned ,ranting ,as though the three principals were still in the silent age .
A painter lives with his patron (and soon to be lover) in her fairytale-like Château.But it's 1914 and duty calls .Jacques becomes a hero (the war lasts hardly 10 min on the screen) and gets married with ...another girl ,Louise Liègeois (sic);his former mistress is not prepared to accept it and interferes in the couple's life ,demanding a portrait of her as a Valkyrie.
This melodrama has not worn well: as I wrote above ,the playing has become laughable ,and it's so slow-moving the action could be boiled down to half-an-hour.
Nous n'irons plus au bois (1955)
Ivan Govar's name is completely forgotten today. Not that it has ever been famous... And yet this Belgian filmmaker is definitely out of the ordinary. (Guy Bellinger)
Because he lacked the focus to develop his ideas (or select well among them),he remained a very minor director ,although one with major potential in two or three of his works.
But what can the cine buff do when confronted with such forgettable stuff as "Le Circuit De Minuit" " Y'en A Marre" (aka "Ce Soir On Tue") or "Que Personne Ne Sorte"? ;on the other hand ," Un Soir Par Hasard " and "Deux Heures A Tuer" are intriguing and had great potential even though their director was not able to see them through;nevertheless,these two movies are well Worth watching.
"Nous N'Irons Plus Au Bois",which borrows its title from a famous folk song of the eighteenth century (we see children dance in a ring to this lovely tune) ,a well-chosen title for a movie which deals with a youngster whose childhood was stolen by a shrew .
It's Govar's debut : a medium-length film (42 min) ,he was only 19 when he made it ;he also played the part of Gus ,the would be nice guy. The beginning was a daring move for the time:an article told us the whole story before we Watch the movie :" a twice murderer young man was shot down after a man hunt ;he had killed his stepmother and was sent to a reformatory;no sooner had he been released than he murdered a farm girl".
As soon as the unfortunate criminal appear,we know he is a victim of fate :the actor resembles contemporary thespian Jérémie Rénier ,with whom he shares the same sensibility .Some may complain about this "spoiler" ,but it does not ruin the movie for all that;on the contrary ,we know that Yan's fate is sealed and nothing can change it;it increases tenfold our sympathy for him .
Yan found his native village a markedly less sympathetic place ,his father ,not inspired by the prodigal son parable ,only allows his only son to sleep in his barn for one night;even the nature seems hostile in a God -forsaken world -the song which starts the movie is not the old perennial ditty but a lugubrious lament ,imploring the good Lord ;in a house near decay ,he can still his shrew of a stepmother yell at him.From now on,we do know he is primarily a victim.
Hoping against hope ,Yan tries to pick up the pieces .But the providential world (epitomized by good friend Gus and lover Maria) is pure illusion;whereas he thought he could count on a friend ,there is just a jealous guy who leads the man hunt;whereas he was dreaming of love with a pure girl in a white dress -who fleetingly appears in the wood-,he's left with a sensual crude girl who sleeps with the first to come.
There's some clumsiness -notably the death of Maria- but the amateurish filming on location -one more time,the Nouvelle Vague did not invent it- inspires its vital extremism,notably in the final kill .Yan ,tracked down by the populace stops and leans back against a big old black tree ,searching for an illusory protection
Although Govar's very small cult consider this short work a blueprint for "La Croix Des Vivants" which was inspired ,even more, by the parable of the prodigal son,this work is an impressive debut ;had Govar continued in this vain,he would have been a name to reckon with .
Like this? Try these.....
"Mouchette" Robert Bresson ,1967
"Jagdzenen Aus Niederbayern " Peter Fleischmann,1968
Rouletabille aviateur (1932)
Bread and gold
This is the third installment in the Rouletabille saga ,probably made to capitalize on the success of Marcel L'Herbier's "Le Mystere De La Chambre Jaune" and "Le Parfum De La Dame En Noir".
Roland Toutain takes on his part of Rouletabille,and one must admit he is the perfect actor for the character (none of his successors have surpassed him);his boyish looks ,his plus fours (which make him resemble Tintin),and his acrobatic prowess (he was really a stuntman of sorts)make him Gaston Leroux's ideal journalist.
The screenplay ,unlike the two precedent efforts,does not really possess Gaston Leroux's qualities :except maybe for the scene in the theater,mystery is lacking.
A plane is shot down and the gold it contained is stolen .Rouletabille,on Holiday in Hungaria,comes back to work .He meets a treacherous lady and the superintendent's daughter ,who is held hostage and whom he marries in the skies.One should note that,in spite of the title ,the hero is an aviator for a few minutes.
In the thirties,Roland Toutain often served as a foil to the romantic male lead ;this movie may or may not help him get the part of the aviator in Renoir's classic "La Règle Du Jeu " (1939).
Le crâneur (1955)
Nylon stockings,you bet!
Dimitri Kirsanoff reportedly made good silent movies ;there is also a worthwhile talkie, "rapt" (1934).
"Le Crâneur" (="the show-off":as nobody's bragging is the movie,the title is a misnomer).
Raymond Pellegrin was a very good actor ,who made indifferent films Noirs by the dozen and found a good part as a schoolteacher in the first version of "Manon Des Sources" by Pagnol.
He portrays a stuntman (the actor he stands for is a real braggart on his part:" yes,he said to his female fans,I'm sporty;that's why I'm not doubled in my movies) ,torn between two women:a good one (Marina Vlady) ,who sings in a nightclub and a bitch (Dora Doll), a choreographic artist ("topless dancer" says the cop).The bad woman gets her new lover involved in her dirty job with drug traffickers. (she tells him he transports nylon stockings !)
In this hackneyed story ,the most salutary quality is a certain sense of humor ;"it could not be the English guy who committed the crime!he would have strangled her!" .The Chanteuse to her sister who blames the place where she works: " There are decent people there;sister: " decent people for sure ,selling morphine !"
The film is a long flashback,as it is often the case in this kind of thriller ;the suspense is not really sustained and the ending totally bland.
Marina Vlady(17) has rarely been as good-looking as in this movie ;she claims that she writes her own songs :maybe it fooled some viewers at the time; but since, Brassens ' s "Chanson Pour L'Auvergnat" has become a timeless classic of the Chanson Française and her words are now a little ridiculous.
NB: Marina Vlady's real life sister,Hélène Vallier,plays the part of her straight sibling.
La mort de Mario Ricci (1983)
I had seen Goretta's movie when it was released ;I tried to give it a second chance and I watched it last night:it did not make me change my mind.Sure it was a pleasure to see again the sadly missed Gian Maria Volonte and the really beautiful Mimsy Farmer,but the movie is a capitulation:it was released in 1982,just before the French left revealed themselves in true colors and became to the present the champagne socialists.
"La Dentellière" ,Goretta's only commercial success,already showed the impossible love between a bourgeois student and a girl from the humble people :in spite of Huppert's talent ,it did not take sides and concluded :"it's an unfair world ,it's really too bad for that poor girl,but let it be that way and life will go on safely"
"La Mort De Mario Ricci " is more of the same,in in its own way: a TV journalist and his assistant ,coming to interview a sociologist whose books deal with world hunger (and one may wonder what he is doing here in a rather cozy house whereas other people go out on the field,nursing ,helping ,teaching?).We are given a small lecture on that crucial problem but is there a sentence ,in the professor's generous speech,that the average viewer has not already heard? In parallel,we are told the tragic accident of an Italian laborer ,working on the Mont Blanc tunnel.A garage owner seems to be responsible for his death ,but in the hotel where the journalists are staying,another side of the story is slowly spreading: humble people are hypocrites ,liars,and their youth is racist .Fontana ,the hero ,hardly intervenes ,except maybe for the scene with the wasted Donnadieu (the future brilliant star of "spoorlos" ),and his assistant,Didier ,represents the happy-go-Lucky TV reporter ,who does not even realize that he is part of the privileged persons .
The movie,made by an intellectual for intellectuals,totally devoid of humor,represents political non-commitment ;and if someone shows some emotion ,it's politically committed (in real life) GM Volonte,who looks more and more disenchanted as the movie progresses;he certainly deserved the prize he won ;his character was once a courageous man (didn't he become disabled in the exercise of his duties?)
The screenwriter,Pierre Laroche, combines two novels by Colette :"Chéri" and "La Fin De Chéri" ;he chose to overlook WW1 but kept the tragical ending.
The hero meets one of his old chums (La Copine) who keeps a collection of photographs of his youth;thus the movie is built around flashbacks .Pierre Billon's direction is rather static ,but his first-class cast shines: Jean Desailly,one of the most gifted thespians of his generation was often overlooked by the cinema (with the notable exceptions of this movie,"Le Voyageur De La Toussaint" ,"La Mort De Belle" and particularly "Maigret Tend Un Piège " in which he outshone Gabin);he portrays this pitiful handsome gigolo with the child in his eyes ,displaying every nuance of his fragility and desperation;Jane Marken ,true to form,is his over-possessive big mama ,a would be socialite who looks like a crude madam;Marcelle Chantal is his aging lover who feels youth slipping away from her;Yvonne De Bray is his confidant ,trying to give him back the Joie De Vivre ;less impressive is Marcelle Derrien's Edmée ,the woman with whom Chéri made a money match and who does not want to bear a child,for fear he may be a second " you" .
Un homme et son chien (2008)
La Fin Du Jour
It takes a lot of guts to fulfill such a role.
Kudos to you,Philippe Guenot:this is your best comment so far!Or at least my favorite of yours !
I am amazed by the very weak rating:this is not a subject hip people dig. Of course De Sica's harrowing " Umberto D "(1951) comes to mind (it is more or less its remake:Cesare Zavattini is credited);the most memorable scene of De Sica's masterwork is included :Belmondo holds out his hand to beg but he says he 's only looking if it is raining!And it roughly follows its plot. Francis Huster lets his cine buff inspiration flow:
For instance,the sequence in the church will fatally remind the viewer of "Leon Morin Pretre" by Melville this memorable sequence when Emmanuelle Riva tells Belmondo that religion is the opium of the people ;to hear her reciting the gospel depicting Christ's death is gripping.
It also recalls Julien Duvivier's masterpiece "La Fin Du Jour " (1939): in a house for retired people ,it depicted the sad end of aging actors :that may explain the numerous cameos by very famous actors :Robert Hossein's appearance does not exceed a few seconds (you read well) and a somber Bergmanian Max Von Sydow seems to have definitely lost his chess game with death.Pierre Mondy seems to cling to the tree of life but his words depict a depressing reality. Never perhaps since the great Duvivier,a French director had shown the wrinkled faces in close shot ,hoping against hope,and trying to smile in spite of everything.
The young generation is featured too and then again,the choice of the actors is not gratuitous : Sarah Biasini is Romy Schneider's daughter ,the late actress with whom Belmondo had one of his first important supporting parts (Ein Engel Auf Erde ,1959);as Philippe points out in his insightful review, Jean Dujardin is Belmondo' s successor .
Belmondo gives one of his best performances, a very restrained playing;his commitment to his part is extraordinary.Sometimes we feel he attends these scenes of everyday life,but he does not care anymore,as if he were in another world where only his doggie has a place ;it's not a movie you leave unscathed: the man's fate and all his friends ' is our universal fate ,that's why people do not accept the fact that time waits for no one and it won't wait for us all too.
It will probably be Belmondo's swansong : Salut l'Artiste!
Les surmenés (1958)
The Eminence Grise of the Cahiers Du Cinema which unfairly trashed many worthwhile directors in the past ,Doniol-Volcroze was not gifted when it came to making his own films :with an exception,he never produced a really worthwhile movie:the oasis in the desert of his work is represented by his 1970 effort "La Maison Des Bories" which owed much to his actors ,Matthieu Carrière and Marie Dubois.
This is a short ,which was made before "L'Eau A La Bouche",his first feature film;in twenty minutes,it tells the story of a bubble head girl ,who just won a typewriting contest and comes to Paris where she becomes some kind of secretary;apart from her brother-in-law ,she meets two men : a sensible nine-to -five one ,(Jean-Pierre Cassel)and a playboy she met on the train(Jean-Claude Brialy ) who leads her in a whirl of pleasures ,a little incompatible with her work.To help her ,the reasonable guy gives a book saying "do read ,the answer to everything is in it".
This book provides the movie with a good "punch line" ,which proves that ,from time to time,the NV could display a sense of humor ,here inspired by dear old La Fontaine.