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L'affiche rouge (1976)
They shed their blood
Although it was awarded the "Jean Vigo prize" in 1976,this "red poster" met mixed critical reception and fared poorly at the French box office . It was typically premature art house cinema ,but has remained ignored by the cultural channels to this day.Ambitious,not always successful,not very accessible,it is avant-Garde stuff.
Obviously intended to renew the " WW2 resistance movie" which spawned lots and lots of movie,some of them ,incidentally,quite good .
A company wants to make a play about Mont Valerien resistant fighters who were shot by the Nazis and the French collaborators.Their play looks often like a movie ,whereas the segments on stage are more avant-Garde stuff (the masked Nazi telling that the Jews do not "possess the soul to play Mozart ,Bach and Wagner ";Goebbels' "spoken " cast and credits of the work,which is some kind of spoof on this technique often used by Sacha Guitry)
The most salutary quality of the movie is the meeting between the comedians and their character's parents :"he was taller than you"one mother says ;the problem lies in the fact that these parents are also actors (it is not Cinema Verite).
But if the form is new,the content is not: the letters (from a resistant fighter soon to die to his/her child)which open and end the work have been used a hundred times or more;the poster,the purpose of which is to make the French believe their enemies are the Jews and the Commies ,is not new either.
One of the main assets of "L'Affiche rouge" is Pierre Clementi 's presence :turning back from stardom after "Benjamin" ,he began an utterly uncompromising career and prematurely died in the late nineties. He portrays Raiman,a nihilistic rebel.
Not devoid of interest ,but sometimes stodgy ...
La fille au fouet (1952)
One time ,a long time ago,on a mountain in Switzerland ,yo lo lo lo lo...
Veronique Deschamps ,who was the director's wife (they married the very year the movie was released),had a very short career and she was only offered supporting parts in such works as " Escale A Orly" ,"Suivez Cet Homme "or " Chiens Perdus Sans Colliers ".Part of the reason can be found in the fact that the androgynous girl niche was already occupied in the fifties by Andrée Debar who was notably cast as Le chevalier D'Eon ,a spy who used to dress up as a woman,in Jacqueline Audry's eponymous film.
Although she plays the lead in this movie,she is not credited so :Michel Simon and Gaby Morlay ,whose appearances do not exceed half of her time on screen , are considered the stars and their big names appear first in the cast.Also featured are veterans Marcelle Géniat and Pauline Carton.Michel Barbey ,who plays the young romantic male lead is treated the same way as Deschamps :although still living ,and having enjoyed a long career,he remained virtually unknown throughout.
The movie is pure melodrama ,a genre in which Gaby Morlay is a specialist .Pietro is a girl who passes herself off as a boy in the Swiss mountain where everybody is his/her friend ;one could fear for a moment that this tomboy full of Joie De Vivre would lead us into "Heidi" territory.However,Pietro's gender does not delude the viewer for long ,but there are good sequences:
-Piétro /Angelina swimming in the nude in the Stream ,surprised by her good friend Calisse ..
-the same,in the boarding-school ,sleeping in the dormitory with the boys;when they Wake up,the priest asks them to have a shower:too much for the girl who takes to her heels ,too bad for her mates! (let's note that the heavenly choir you hear for a short scene is none other than "Les Petits Chanteurs A La Croix De Bois" .See also for that matter Dreville's "La Cage Aux Rossignols" later remade as "Les Choristes").
-Angelina and Calisse in the same bed:"this bolster is like a mountain;it will be our natural boundary" she says to her disappointed friend.
-The smugglers trying to get to the border while the "Gabelous" (customs officers) are watching out for them;it is treated as a western.
The ending borrows from the story of the little Dutch boy . This legend has it that there was once a small boy who upon passing a dike on his way to school noticed a slight leak as the sea trickled in through a small hole.And he saved the situation.
All in all,this is very pleasant "Cinema De Qualité " ,even though it is marred by a politically correct ending:one should have wanted the lovers to stay with their comrades and take a rebel stand against the establishment (epitomized by so called grandpa Michel Simon )
Anyway,Dréville carried on with woman's lib in his follow-up ,devoted to aviator Hélène Boucher ,the French Amelia Earhardt ("Horizons Sans Fin")
Une nuit de folies (1934)
You'll never know what you're in for.
Although the name of Fernandel appears before the title of the film in the cast ,he is not really the principal in this comedy.Actually the screenplay is made of subplots which are supposed to make a seamless whole.
It's essentially a depiction of the underworld circa 1934 and it features colorful characters :two prostitutes,complaining of the shortage of clientèle and declaring that the government should do something about it;a barman (Fernandel)who 's drug-trafficker/pimp Jo Le Frisé 's dealer,it's a nice little earner;two well-meaning men,tired of marriage, who loosen up a bit ;one of these gentlemen's wife ,taking her less-than-handsome suitor to the sleazy dance hall where the poor lad does not understand a single slang word and catches a cold.
The censorship was more lenient in those happy times:a stark naked woman performs an erotic dance with a ball ,much to a middle-aged man's pleasure (but not to his sour-tempered wife's).And it is not a very rare occurrence in the production of the era (see also " Lac Aux Dames" or "L'Esclave Blanc".)
Rentrée des classes (1956)
Entirely filmed on location in a small Provençal village,with non-Professional actors.
There's an old song which features the line :"throw the copybooks into the fire and the teacher too";here a schoolboy,on a bet,throws his schoolbag into the river...
This short roughly comprises two parts:
-The boy tries to retrieve his school stuff and plays hooky for a while :the water which flows represents boundless liberty,and before you were born,it is your natural habitat after all.Except for a snippet of a diva 's voice,it's the sound of the nature :lapping,chirping,warbling...
-He returns to school to be confronted with a grumpy teacher who asks for his Holiday homework (although actually Holiday homework was not given by the schoolteacher) made in fact by his dad .The angry teacher ,taking the "what-did -they-teach-you-at school?" to the letter,keeps daddy in the classroom much to the other pupils' joy.Sonny rebels and releases the water snake he has captured :panic in the school .The snake has always epitomized sin ,hasn't it?;freedom for all his mates ;like poet Jacques Prévert's dunce ("Le Cancre") ,he has drawn the face of happiness .
This is a poetic work ,and should be considered a fable,à la Jean Vigo :some details are true:school used to start again in early October because country children were supposed to help their parents on the farms(the calendar reads "3 rd October");the teacher addresses as "Vous" when he talks to his students ,which was not so unusual before May 1968.
Like this ?try these .....
"Zero De Conduite" Jean Vigo ,1933
"Le Ballon rouge" Albert Lamorisse,1956
"L'Ecole Buissonnière " the unfairly overlooked film by Jean-Paul Le Chanois,1948
Behold a pale horse
Julia McKenzie is as good as Joan Hickson as the mischievous Miss Marple;both are closer to Christie's character than the sturdy Margaret Rutherford in George Pollock's sixties movies.
I read "the pale horse" a long long time ago but I remember the black magic,an unusual subject for the writer.Note that Ariadne Oliver was replaced by Jane Marple.The first sequences ,in a foggy street ,looks more like a Sherlock Holmes adventure ,but what remains takes place in one of these small villages where the old lady pulls the rug from Under the cop's feet.It includes a (mortal) equivalent of Viagra-not in the book-,a list of people who mysteriously died after staying in that "Pale Horse" (from the Apocalypse?),a priest who was murdered after confessing a dying woman,a secret ceremony in which the three witches invoke the evil spirits ,a man in a wheelchair who might be able to walk (and kill?).
Le costaud des Batignolles (1952)
As strong as Samson
The first of the two movies directed by Guy Lacourt,both featuring Raymond Bussières and wife Annette Poivre.
Short puny Jules would like to be a beefy man and he does body-building every morning to no avail.All the big boys around laugh at him and call him names ;these hefty men are burglars and Jules feels compelled to help them with their dirty deeds.In the house they burglarise,Jules meets again Mémette ,on her former friends .Then the movie becomes another version of Popeye :whereas a can of spinach gives the sailor man his strength,a (magic) kiss from Mémette's lips turns frail Jules into Hercules.
Some good scenes :the gangsters,drawing up an inventory of their booty and drawing lots to share it;the doctor,examining the strong man and kissing (twice) the girlfriend to see if it "works" with someone else.
By and large ,this is less funny than Lacourt's follow-up,"Mon Frangin Du Sénégal" ,which in the way,was a variation on the same theme: a hang-up guy who tries to be a better himself.In the 1953 effort ,Bussières had a more interesting part,creating two different personalities.
Monsieur Hector (1940)
Les Jeux De L'Amour Et Du Hasard.
Freely adapted from Marivaux's famous play from the eighteenth century,the movie deals with the masters/servants relationship .There's also a recurrent feature of the French cinema till the fifties: the wealthy bourgeois who wants to marry his daughter (or his son) to a noble so as to make her(him ) a viscount/viscountess.
Fernandel is true to form as the servant who passes himself off as his master (Georges Grey),at the request of the true viscount ,harassed by an infuriating (and getting old)Russian lady ;a maid has the same idea and she thinks that if she wears a mink coat,she will attract an aristocrat's attention.Meanwhile ,the handsome viscount falls for a gorgeous brunette he mistakes for a Soubrette ,but who is actually a rich bourgeois's daughter (a well-to-do father who wants his daughter to be part of the aristocracy).
Fernandel tries his hand at skiing with mixed results.He sings three songs ,including one in Tyrol,complete with costumes and yodel.
Happy end: the masters marry the masters and the servants do the same.
Mademoiselle ma mère (1937)
Mother is still a Miss.
"Miss ,my mother" you read well : a spoiled girl,20 ,a wealthy man's daughter who buys a yacht as I buy a bike ,chooses to marry the first to come:it happens to be a fifty-something greybeard (Pierre Larquey);and she also gets a stepson,25 , a medical student (Pierre Brasseur),who pretends he hates her and has her followed by a private detective (hence the title).As my good friend Writer's Reign aptly wrote ,this could lead to Greek tragedy,a la Phaedra.But it belongs to Henry Decoin's first period ,when he was making light comedies before brilliantly turning film noir master .
This one suffers from a predictable screenplay ,not in a league with "Abus De Confiance " ,"Battements De Coeur" or "Retour A l'Aube",the latter displaying Decoin's first foray into Film Noir.However, Miss Darrieux ,as the capricious Virgin who refuses to consummate her wedding and Pierre Brasseur whose family's honor is at stake and thus studies mental derangement,make a nice pair.
Théodore et Cie (1933)
Cheesy cheese and cheesecake.
Theodore (Albert Préjean) is a lazy man ,abetted by his good pal Casimir (Raimu).His uncle is a wealthy man who has made his fortune in cheese.He discovers a pin-up ( his wife as the model)in one of his guests' wallet and his anger knows no bounds.Theodore and his friend will try and prove his wife does not cheat on him.
The screenplay(based on a play) is confused and desultory;most of the actors'playing,save for the two leads ,grate on the ears.The movie's main strength is Raimu's performance :alternately dressed up as a superintendent,a butler ,a priest ,a fireman ,and even ..a woman . Raimu does not need any director.
Un cheval pour deux (1962)
For good old horses,life is getting worse.
Like Jean Poiret and Michel Serrault,Roger Pierre and Jean-Marc Thibault were one of the most famous comic male duets of the era.Roger Pierre wore several hats in "Un Cheval Pour Deux:actor,writer and director.
25th August 1944;Paris,free at last !and it's my birthday says jailbird Maurice:he is released from the slammer by resistant fighters but he was actually arrested for stealing a bike five years before (perhaps that of the hero of Vittorio De Sica? who knows?)
When he returns home ,all is not so rosy:"what happened in all those years" he naively asks his grumpy mom.Mother is not prepared to feed him for free at a time when housewives stand in line with their ration card in their hands.So Maurice steals again ,this time a horse called Berlingot (=hard candy),so as to sell steaks on the black market.Helped by his so called schoolmate Roland,he begins the task.He must first find potential customers :but,down on his luck,he meets policemen ,priests and nymphomaniacs and his future steaks sell poorly.And to kill the horse they become friends with is beyond them....
Roger Pierre thought his movie was completely lost ,but it is not,and the copy which circulates is quite satisfying."Un Cheval pour Deux" could have been treated as a silent movie ,for many gags are purely visual;there are good things ,notably when Maurice ,in his smart suit ,discovers that fashion has changed since 1939;the ending in the slaughterhouse is a little heavy-handed by Roger Pierre can make his pet cry in the very last shot!
Like this?try these
"La Traversée De Paris " Claude Autant-Lara ,1956
"Heureux Qui Comme Ulysse" Henri Colpi ,1971