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The frog in the drawer
Another Christie's classic with an unexpected ending,adding a risqué Relationship which was not,of course,in the detective story.(there's also a nod at " a place in the sun" and at Mister Montgomery Clift,a coincidence?) True to form,Miss Marple does not question the suspects,she does not look for fingerprints with a magnifying glass;she talks of this and that with all of them,or she closely listens to what they say;and above all,she watches (the nails are a good example) This episode takes us to a luxury hotel in Brighton ;a too brief appearance by aging James Fox ;and ,one more time,a brilliant example of Mrs Christie's algebra.I particularly like the moment when she reveals the truth to the two cops,cool ,calm and collected .This mischievous spinster was woman's lib before her time .
Carmen di Trastevere (1962)
Carmen twists the night away in 1963
The umpteenth story inspired by Prosper Mérimée's short story,the action of which was transposed to the early sixties .Don José (Antonio in the movie, there was an Antonio in Mérimée's work but he was not the main character) becomes a self-conscious policeman ,played by BB's ex-husband Jacques Charrier;Carmen is a singer and she performs here there and everywhere.For the cop,it's love at first sight,but the brunette wants to be free .
Following roughly the plot of the short story,the action becomes quite trite in the early sixties :the policeman is forced to resign,he becomes part of a drug traffickers gang whose boss is none other than Carmen's husband ,just released from jail (Lino Ventura ,in one of his less famous parts).As the action takes place in Italy ,it's impossible to introduce a bullfighter as Antonio's rival.Never mind that,the Torero will be a motorbike racer (also called Lucas) and the bullfight ..a race !Why not after all? In his much Superior version,"Carmen Jones" ,entirely played by black actors ,Don José became a boxer and the "Corrida" a boxing match.
For all that,Gallone's movie remains flat and bland :one sees little of the burning passion of the hero in Charrier's performance ;the movie is also handicapped by songs and ballroom and cabaret dancing which are essentially filler (none of Bizet's arias is heard ,so opera lovers ,do not to bother).Besides,Carmen is Spanish to the core ;she is part of the Spanish scene and cannot be credible,riding her motorbike with her squeeze ,a la "Roman holidays".
Train d'enfer (1985)
Incident on the northbound train
Based on a true story which sadly may happen again today.
There were harsh words said of this plea against racism at the time of issue ,and I can see little fault with the opinions expressed ,including that of the precedent user;it proves,one more time,that good intentions do not walk hand in hand with good results.
Roger Hanin stepped into two of his predecessors' shoes:André Cayatte and Yves Boisset ,whose "Dupont-Lajoie" he probably had in mind .But these two directors,often unfairly despised by the "true" connoisseurs of the French cinema ,the likes of the N.V. clique,had ,by and large,firm and strong screenplays and they knew how to direct their actors (remember Jean Carmet and Jean-Pierre Marielle in "Dupont -Lajoie".) In Hanin' s flick ,they are left to their own devices,and even good thespians such as Robin Renucci and the late Christine Pascal are bad.
The dialog is abysmal ,every line you hear is a cliché ;so heavy-handed ,as the precedent user aptly wrote ,it's sometimes involuntary comic.
One can save ,at a pinch ,the last sequence ,told in the third conditional ,which shows some emotion .
NB:not to be confused with Gilles Grangier's eponymous movie (1965).
La famille Hernandez (1965)
Les Filles De Mon Pays
Pied-Noir ( Black-Foot), plural Pieds-Noirs, is a term referring to people of French and other European ancestry who lived in French North Africa, namely French Algeria, the French protectorate in Morocco, or the French protectorate of Tunisia, often for generations, until the end of French rule in North Africa between 1956 and 1962.(.....) The Europeans arrived in Algeria as immigrants from all over the western Mediterranean (particularly France, Spain, Italy and Malta), starting in 1830. (wikipedia)
One character tells us so "my parents came from Spain;I am French."
Released in 1964,two years after the Evian agreement and the return of the Pieds-Noirs in France (I remember them when they were temporarily "camping" on a square in front of my father's shop). The movie met with mixed critical reception,being trashed by the leftist press for their depicting of the Pieds Noirs Community.However ,that was the only movie which,at the time,described ,in a colorful Pagnol way,the everyday life of those people who lived on the other side of the Mediterranean .the French settlers repatriated after Algerian independence:one of them,a singer ,Enrico Macias,was very popular -and not only among the repatriated- :his first songs often dealt with this "lost paradise" ,this "country I left but that I've never forgotten ,and the silence is often a way to like it".He also sang about the "beautiful girls of my country ,to whom,family's honor prevails over everything".
Through these songs ,the Young boy I was had a vague idea of the Pieds-Noirs's sunny country and "La Famille Hernandez is ,although based on a play which was written long before the film,an equivalent of Macias's songs .
In Bab El Oued -the movie was filmed in Spain,for a good reason!-,lives the Hernandez family:the parents want their daughter to marry .Their life is depicted in a colorful way ,but they seem naive and rather simple-minded :the "culture" Carmen gets is found in her kid brother's chocolate ,or on a poster in a movie theater;she does not know what a tiebreaker is:hence her failure in a sentimental woman magazine 's competition.The "real" culture is represented by the "true" French schoolteacher whose dictation revolves around Charlemagne and by the (rather unsympathetic ) social worker ,who proudly walks down the street ,with her fashionable hairdo and dress and who wants the Hernandez's little daughter to spend her Summer in a French Holiday camp to breathe pure fresh air .It must also be noticed that everyone knows his place : a man of French extraction won't marry a Pied-Noir girl.These details might have infuriated the repatriated,some of whom were educated as well!
The movie - the play was reportedly a huge success in the fifties-was certainly entertaining but only for the mainstream Pieds-Noirs audience in the early sixties:it fueled their nostalgia,their regret of their lost paradise ;but this audience was limited and the movie quickly fell into oblivion,largely overlooked by historians of cinema.It also should be pointed out that the movie,except for the ominous last sequence,does not deal with politics .
NB:Frederic De Pasquale,who portrays the schoolteacher ,would be featured in Robert Enrico's contemporary much-debated movie about the Algerian war "La Belle Vie"
Filles de fraudeurs (1962)
I've gotta get out of a dump like this!
Ten years before ,"Le Banquet Des Fraudeurs " dealt with a similar subject.
Back to the fifties "The European Union is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbors, which culminated in the Second World War. As of 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community begins to unite European countries economically and politically in order to secure lasting peace. The six founders are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands." At the end of this early sixties movie,a gendarme hints at the European Union and at the fact that there won't be any borders pretty soon.
Although it is about smugglers,"Filles De Fraudeurs" is close to melodrama nay fairytale.These dishonest men hide their stuff in old Mazier's café in which it is written in capital letters:"this domicile is inviolable.
Mr Mazier's first wife died and left him with a virtuous girl ,Francine;alas,he married again ,with a shrew who treats her stepdaughter like Cinderella ;besides she had herself a daughter, a perverse unscrupulous venal bitch (Betty Beckers whose playing was strongly influenced by those of Ginette Leclerc and Vivianne Romance) ;all she wants is to get out of this seedy place and head for the broader horizons of Paris where they made chic shoes .Fortunately for Francine,like Snowwhite ,one day ,her prince came :these naive smugglers mistook him for one of their "colleagues" ,but 1) he is handsome 2) he is smiling and nice 3) he is dressed up to the nines 4) he takes Francine-Cosette to the fair .When his real role is revealed at the end of the movie,your belief needs to be suspended :he was featured in the screenplay to assure a happy end .
Les premiers outrages (1955)
The corn is green
Light-hearted gallantries in the green landscapes of Avallonnais;as usual,this Jean Gourguet's effort was filmed on location,with his favorite Young actor Maurice Sarfati (see also " Maternité clandestine" " La P......Sentimentale");who,once again,in spite of his youthful looks ,is obviously too old (24) for the part of a teenager who just failed his high school diploma .
Inspired by Colette's "Le Blé En Herbe " and the eponymous movie by Claude Autant-Lara which was released the year before,Gourguet lets a Young teenage girl tell the tale of her first love :she falls for Kiki but he has an affair with the woman who accompanies the teacher he has private lessons with.
This is bland and predates what Eric Rohmer will do later ,in a much more intellectual (and IMHO) boring way.
strangler on a train
IMHO,an improvement on Georges Pollock's version ("murder she said" ,1962)starring Margaret Rutherford.The place where the desirable mansion is located is called "Rutherford" ,perhaps a tribute to McEwan 's predecessor.
Directing is much less static than Pollock's ,and the two trains belting in the dark and blue night is an exciting scene;the final scene is a very good idea as Miss Marple summons her suspects on the same train .
it's too bad Jenny Agutter had to die in the very first sequence;Geraldine Ewan ,Ben Daniels and David Warner are the stand-outs of a stellar cast ;the screenwriter succeeds in making numerous characters interesting ,which is the main difficulty is Mrs Christie's brilliant murder mysteries.
A beautiful mind
If we do not count "Ceux De Chez Nous" a documentary he made in ...1915,"Pasteur" can be considered Guitry's first effort.
You cannot compare it to William Dieterle's "the story of Louis Pasteur,because it's boiled down to four or five moments in the scientist's life and it only lasts about 70 min.
Guitry's touch is already present,in the cast and credits "written" in the past historic -which today is quite relevant- ,in the first sequence in which the director/actor presents the great man,displaying his drawings .Guitry portrays Louis Pasteur himself,and we can already feel his genius:all that remains to be added is his incredible wit and sense of humor.The tone is really solemn in the conclusion ,and the scenes with Joseph ,the Young Shepherd he cured when a rabid dog bit his leg-today ,the scientists and the historians are more doubtful as to this vaccine-.The scenes with Joseph are close to hagiography ,but Guitry wins over his audience ,as he wins over his colleagues in the first scenes .The final words express hope that some day science and peace will walk hand in hand much to humanity's happiness.
La revanche de Baccarat (1948)
Now outstripped by Arsène Lupin,Rocambole was an adventurer whose adventures were so popular it gave to the French language a new adjective:Rocambolesque(=incredible).Ponson Du Terrail,his creator ,belongs to the serialized novels writers such as Eugène Sue (whose "mysteries of Paris" Baroncelli transferred to the screen too) or Adolphe D'Ennery (whose "les Deux Orphelines "was transferred to the screen by DW Griffith as "orphans in the storm").
It is a sequel to "Rocambole" (1948)and there's nothing new under the sun:identity usurpation,a subject which Maurice Leblanc (Arsène Lupin) and later Patricia Highsmith (Ripley) would dramatically improve,chastised innocents,secret passages...which lead to real dungeons where two characters (Venture and his mate) are abandoned to their sad fate :and if it is not clear enough,they find a skeleton in their prison.Brrr!
Rocambole,true to form, passes himself off as a count's heir whereas the unfortunate true aristocrat is sent to a chain gang.His worst enemy ,Baccarat, tries to thwart his ominous plans;both use incredible ways to achieve their ends ,and ,all in all ,one wonders whether love is not stronger than hate .
Pierre Brasseur ,who did not take the screenplay seriously,gives a tongue- in- cheek performance: cynical,smooth,sometimes cruel,artful,he is the main reason why you would watch this stuff ,which is nothing but the talkie Louis Feuillade would have made.
It was to be De Baroncelli's swansong:he died in 1951.
El cuerpo (2012)
In the fifties,in Europa , France used to rule over the thriller.No Longer so.Spain has been releasing great thrillers for almost two decades now whereas my native land lost the good recipes a long time ago.
Why do I mention France?Because I think that ,much more than any Hitchcock's masterpieces ,"El Cuerpo" reminds me of Henri-Georges Clouzot's classic "Les Diaboliques" (1955),currently in IMDb top 250.
A woman killed by diabolical lovers ,a woman whose body disappears and thus might or might not be dead;the assassin's growing terror;the wealthy wife's wickedness -Clouzot's characters are often pure evil-and the murky atmosphere ,the morgue,the disturbing corridors of a police station,the gruesome details;and like in Clouzot's (or Hitchcock's) works,a firm screenplay which does not fall apart in the first third,and grabs you till the final unexpected twist, as brilliant as that of "Les Diaboliques" and which justifies the first pictures which may puzzle the viewer.
The hero is like a puppet- but who pulls the strings?- ,a brilliant chemistry professor but a weak little boy under a matronly wife.Her appearances in flashbacks (or in sequences in which the husband is seeing things?) gives the jitter .Like in Clouzot's film,the victim is more disturbing than his/her killers.
A tense suspense which thrillers buffs must not miss!