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C'est la vie parisienne (1954)
Two love stories
This is a movie out of time,but it retains a certain pristine charm,that of the old Christmas cards of yore.The two stars are completely forgotten today but they had plenty of go and they made a nice couple ;the movie is divided into two parts that do not hang well (the second part is flawed and finally disappointing)
1)LA BELLE EPOQUE : She's a singer in a cabaret "La Vie Parisienne " (hence the title) and performs all the "hits" of the era :"La Tonkinoise" "Si Tu Veux Faire Mon Bonheur " ,some of which became perennials ;she attracts the attention of a Young viscount but the Belle doesn't want to go out with the first to come and "besides mommy would be crossed;the problem is that "mommy " is a concierge ,and ,except in fairy tales ,princes do not woo shepherdesses ,except for fun.But the noble is really in love:he passes himself off as a coach driver (and vice versa ,the crude man becomes a duke ). There are pleasant scenes: the viscount unloads cauliflowers when the coachman drinks champagne (but he'd rather have a rough red wine),the very short duel ,the noble father,Gontran ,who won't hear of this misalliance ;the establishment wins ,and they ironically tell us that the Young man cried for his girl for eight days,which was much for the time.
2)PRESENT TIME (the fifties ,that is)
Now the bourgeoisie has taken over the power ,and the aristocracy is ruined ;the granddaughter and the grandson of the Belle Epoque lovers is inverted ;the Young man is hired by the bourgeois family to play the trumpet for a party and he is humiliated ;best scene concerns the Grandson and his still alive grandfather (both played by Philippe Lemaire )facing each other ,the old man remembering his unfortunate love and "La Tonkinoise" .But the rest is not up to par,compared with the first segment.
The film was shot in color ,which was rare in the fifties;the color has faded a bit,which adds to the obsolete charm.
La petite Fadette (2004)
"La¨ petite Fadette" belongs to George Sand's country novels ,probably her most famous with "La Mare Au Diable".
As the precedent user points out,the landscapes are superb,the screenplay is well written ,and the acting is generally good,even outstanding : Jérémie Rénier is Landry Barbeau as Sand created him,he tries to be a man but breaks like a little boy ,he seems overtaken by events ,even more than in the novel ;Rénier who really began his career with François Ozon ("Les Amants Criminels" ),is one of today's more gifted European actors;Grandma Fadet is a character which was developed for the screen and it's not a problem for she is portrayed by the admirable Annie Girardot in one of her last parts ;she steals the show from her granddaughter ,the heroine (Mélanie Bernier) ,in every scene she is with her .
A well-written screenplay ,it certainly is,but does it capture Sand's spirit ,the atmosphere of the Berry country in the nineteenth century? I have my doubts :the novel has undergone lots of changes,some of which were needed (the fortune Fadette discovers after grandma's death) ,some less so;the scene when Landry gets lost in the forest is a fiasco : the atmosphere of mystery ,will-o'-the-wisps', the hero's fear in this dark forest where Fadette might have secret powers ,nothing remains of the writer's magic ;but if this is bad,the scene of the ball is worse : showing the peasants dancing the waltz is downright embarrassing ;read again Sand's depiction :it takes place after the Sunday service,and boys and girls ,in their Sunday's best (folk costumes) ,dance the Bourrée and eat "Fromentée "(sort of wheat porridge) beneath the shady trees ;it has nothing to do with the chic people of the film ;to make the matters worse,Sylvinet helps his twin brother with a gun!
The characters have undergone some changes too: Fadette ,who was on the paper an outcast becomes an outspoken girl,a rebel against the well-meaning villagers ;she even strips bare ,and she does not become gorgeous ,she IS, from the beginning to the end;Madelon looks more like a betrayed girl than the coquette affected girl of the book in which she plays a more minor part ;it's the main change of the story :Madelon and Landry do get engaged ,and it is a money match because the father (the always reliable Richard Bohringer) needs the girl's dowry .
However,this MTV movie remains faithful like a dog to the book as far as the twins' relationship is concerned :sometimes a bit heavy-handed (the scenes in the river are naive symbolism) ,it nevertheless keeps the psychological problems of the Bessons (patois for "twins") ,which ,still relevant today ,represents the most modern aspect of Sand's novel ;Maximilien Muller is completely overshadowed by Rénier (besides the twins were both blond!) ,but the movie does not suffer for it,because Sylvinet was a secret bland irresolute boy,lost when his brother was away .
What's terribly lacking is finally the sound of the bagpipes and the hurdy-gurdy!
Kriss Romani (1963)
The gypsies and the others.
To my knowledge ,the first French movie which deals with the gypsies condition ;the movie begins with a police raid ,in the middle of the night,to check if they have their papers .
This a first tentative movie;there are actually three main themes
1) The Holy script ,seen by the gypsies ,doing a passion play their way
2)Two children discovering the "other" world ,the "normal one" ,the cars ,the shops;when we leave the camp,Schmidt uses a generic score ,but when we comes back to it ,gypsy music and songs are heard .
3)A defiant girl (the hot Catherine Rouvel) who rebels and does not want the man she MUST marry and flees to the city in order to find work :the scene in employment agency shows the gulf between an illiterate gypsy girl and the people from the city .
Supervised by former lawyer director André Cayatte ,the movie uses Professional actresses such as Germaine Kerjean and Lila Kedrova.
Que La Bête Meure !
The subject may remind some of the viewers one of Claude Chabrol's greatest achievements :"Que La Bête Meure " (1968) in which Jean Yanne was at his best .
This above average MTV work manages to avoid any comparison ;it focuses on the hit-and -run driver ;a policeman is right when he says that "this guy will be eaten with remorse,he will not be able to live with the death of an innocent child on his conscience! " And actually the criminal coward has his moments of doubt and fear ,there is an (imaginary) scene in which he gives him up to the police ;it is a well respected man ,an elegant executive (well portrayed by Jean-Paul Rouve) whereas the victim's father is a working-class man .A wrong man is arrested :so what about urging the dad to take the law into his hand ?(check the title) The problems the criminal driver encounters with his family -a wife who does not trust him anymore,the quasi-pathological love he feels for his daughters ,are perhaps too much ;a happy comfortable life would have sharpened the man's desire to get away with it .
This is a responsible work anyway.To be seen .
Maigret a Pigalle (1966)
This is an eminently forgettable flick among the numerous Maigret's investigations ;this one takes place (check the title) in Pigalle and was probably made to attract a "different" audience who ,besides,might be disappointed if they expect hot stuff .Gino Cervi,a comic actor,is not well cast and does not seem to be that much interested in this whodunit in which he helps his colleague ,superintendant Lognon ( The Onion)(Alfred Adam).As for the story ,an educated prostitute who likes Beethoven,Stravinski ...and the Beatles -she owns a copy of "rubber soul" - is murdered ,then a countess is slain.
The only relatively interesting subject concerns Raymond Pellegrin and his wife (Lila Kedrova) who is ten years older than he is ;but they get lost in a muddled screenplay.
Not a ghost of an idea
This movie ,sadly,is the poorest of all Fantomas movies ,being thin,mean ,and lacking in any real positive energy.Of course Feuillade comes to mind ,but ,although his five movies are all much better than this poor thing,he too partly betrayed the writers.
Oddly,only Marcel Allain is credited here ,whereas the novels were co-written with Pierre Souvestre ;this is not great literature ,and certainly inferior to Maurice Leblanc's Arsene Lupin 's saga ,but it is quite entertaining.
Allain and the screenwriters took a lot of liberties with the novels:The idea of introducing fantomas's daughter is silly enough;and casting Simone Signoret is a colossal mistake:she can't be a romantic female young lead,and she'd be best employed as a villain (she did it masterfully in "Diaboliques" ).On the other hand,Marcel Herrand was a perfect choice:the part of Fantomas was tailor-made for him.
A desultory script does not help:the characters (Sonia Danidof,lady Beltham ) are haphazardly introduced and the movie looks like an average episode of VERY average TV series ;the only idea in the whole story is the room where you can get crushed between the floor and the ceiling;as they like it,they cannot refrain from imposing twice this so-called suspenseful gimmick.
Word to the Wise (if there is any of us left):do not bother with Fejos's 1932 version (a notch or two up the scale)and try and see Claude Chabrol's late early eighties ' TV miniseries ,with Helmut Berger as fascinating as Fantomas can be.
Énigme aux Folies Bergère (1959)
Frank Villard portrayed once S.A.Steeman's detective Wens in "L'Ennemi Sans Visage " ,after Pierre Fresnay called it a day ;here he is a captain ,like Commissaire Maigret ,but the screenplay is not based on a Simenon novel;it's a Leo Mallet's book and the story,revolving around (a) diamond(s)is thoroughly worthless;as the title indicates ,it's just a pretext for letting us into the Folies Bergères ,the stage (two interminable acts) and the wings where a former star of the famous music hall(Dora Doll) hangs around:after a car crash ,she became lame and had to relinquish her career and thus is jealous of the new star played by Darryl Zanuck's protégée,ill-fated Bella Darvi . Darvi, after a part in Curtiz's "The Egyptian", was given lousy roles in poor B movies in France,like this dud .Her last movie was an erotic version of Comtesse De Ségur's "Les Petites Filles Modèles" (1971);soon after,she committed suicide .
La vie à l'envers (1964)
Alain Jessua was one of the great mavericks of the French cinema;he was too modern to be labeled "old school" but he had ,fortunately,nothing to do with Godard,TRuffaut and co.Simply ,from this debut to "Paradis Pour Tous" (1982),he has never produced anything mediocre (let's be nice and forget the final works ).
"La Vie A L'Envers " begins with a tape played backwards ;a man is tired of his girlfriend ,of his nine-to-five work and decides to live without the others -I'm watching you,but I don't see you" -and the things ;it was the beginning of the sixties and France was entering the consumer society ,a society which was omnivorous in its appetite for apartments ,cars ,food ;and the main character turns this down;he has made his this sentence from " fight club" 'the things you own ends up owning you" ;and his bubble head girlfriend is a nuisance to live with at home,with her petty ambitions ("there's one of my movies just out ,let's go to the theater":the "movie" in question is an unbearable commercial )and her longing for a bourgeois life .It's not only misogyny:he even can do without his best friend ( "a friend I never see;"it's better that way" ).In an empty room ,he's never been so happy .When the doctor (the last human being he meets ) tells him he has a friend who can give him a nice place to live provided he continues his "work" (his recorded frame of minds),we think of an insane asylum right now.
Charles Denner gives a great performance of this rebel without a cause :no political or sentimental reason for such a behavior,and we never have the impression that the character is going insane . When he begins to enter "his" world ,he walks through a subway corridor covered with posters which read 'trust yourself".
In his sophomore effort ," Jeu De Massacre " ,Jessua would continue his study of deviancy: this time the hero,who makes up incredible stories , disappointed by a routine life and under an over possessive mother 's thumb,tries to live as a comics' hero; "Armaguedon" is " Vie A L'Envers " in reverse:the hero tries to attract the crowds ' attention by becoming some kind of terrorist ;and in his (at least to my eyes) final important work "Paradis Pour Tous" ,a shrink has found a new way of treating depression.
Between 1963 and 1982,Jessua only made six movies ,but they are all interesting ;to someone who would discover him,I 'd suggest "Traitement De Choc"(1972) ,his most accessible effort.
Interdit de séjour (1955)
Maurice De Canonge's most estimable works are "Grisou" and "Les Trois Tambours" "Interdit De Sejour" should be restored to favor ,because it is a genuine film noir,in a way many others are not:the hero is a good guy,who works ;when he meets a femme fatale ,his descent into hell will never give him any respite .
An outcast everywhere ,particularly in the normal world in which he used to live in , he tries to find some help in the gangsters' world ,although he was betrayed by his girlfriend's brother , then to become an informer .Sometimes the viewer stops and wonders :"but an innocent guy such as him does not deserve such a raw deal!";this is tragic! The young lad is played by Claude Laydu , a perfect choice ;his peak was Bresson's pitiful priest in "Journal D'Un Curé De Campagne" ;and he was also cast as 'the most miserable schoolteacher in France" in Delannoy's "La Route Napoleon" ;at the time,nobody could play the victim as he used to do.
For all that,and against all odds,the movie (probably because of Albert Simonin's wit)is sometimes very funny ;the clueless lad thinks his love works in the international relations (!) which she does ,in a way ,for she is a whore in two Montmartre bars ,and there were American soldiers in France in the fifties! A young Michel Piccoli is also cast as a gangster ,and Daniel Cauchy Melville will use in "Bob Le Flambeur" plays the hero's evil genius.
Give this flick a chance!
Un soir sur la plage (1961)
Down by the seaside....
Michel Boisrond has made rather mediocre movies in an undistinguished career.
"Un Soir Sur La Plage" is relatively interesting;the cast includes highly talented Jean Dessailly,Martine Carol,a cast against type Michel Galabru as the cop (whereas he was essentially a comic actor then ,in such comedies as "The Gendarmes series " where he would team up with De Funes and Genevieve Grad ,here cast as Carol's daughter).The biggest surprise is sixties starlet Daliah Lavi as a simple-minded nymphomaniac girl who is murdered on the beach.
The story is essentially a whodunit :in Martine Carol's house,there are many people (too many people actually) and they all have a reason to get rid of her ;do not expect a tour De force à la Agatha Christie :the solution is banal.
More interesting than the plot : the subjects which are hinted at : abortion,still illegal in 1961,and even euthanasia (although Cayatte and Richard Pottier had already broached the latter in the fifties ) And the last picture ,with the cop and his culprit in the car ,makes the ending less trite it might have seemed