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Drôle de noce (1952)
When he did not get lost in religious extravaganzas,Leo Joannon could come up with unpretentious entertaining comedies ,such as "Drôle De Noce" .
Plot:Mr and Mrs Barbezat,Concierges,are to marry their only daughter to a butcher's boy (Jean Richard).Both the in-laws and the groom have an obsession:come what may,they are keen on honoring their engagements :promises are made to be kept is their motto.And when,on wedding day ,the unfortunate parents cannot provide the newly weds with...the "Mérinos" mattress which is part of the bride's Trousseau,they are desperate .The hubby will spend the whole wedding festivities trying to keep his word.
The first part is a colorful of the working classes of Paris more than half a century ago;but the second one is pure burlesque :actually,it could well be a silent movie for there's only a tempo:accelerated ,and this mattress leads the hero into fantastic adventures which has to be seen to be believed: a tight-fisted pawnbroker (Mary Marquet),gangsters using a mattress too (no holds barred),big cats at large after they escape from the Jardin Des Plantes,feathers flying like snow ,you name it...
Joannon gets by fairy well in his task:it may or may not help him be the director of Stan Laurel's and Oliver Hardy's last movie ,"Atoll K".
Old toys and new moms
Jacques Daniel-Norman's last effort and Tino Rossi's last part (in the 1963 work,he was only a guest star)
They had already teamed up for "Son Dernier Noel" ,a melodrama ."Tourments" is more of the same ,both movies revolving around a child ;it's just much more derivative ,and except for the short scenes when the rich kid meets Paris urchins who teach him slang (when he leaves them,he knows the world "Flic" (=cop)),hindsight does not display the same charm .
A couple (Rossi and Blanchette Brunoy) has adopted a child ;the man ,a successful singer gave up his career and became a race horse breeder .But the mother(Jacqueline Porel) comes back and ,after marrying a wealthy man in South America,wants her brat back.She hires a shady private eye (Louis De Funès!!and in a part longer than usual in the early fifties):blackmail,emotional blackmail,libels, despair of the wife who leaves her husband ,and the boy runs away from his desirable home.
Rossi sings four songs ,including "Bella Donna" and a lullaby for his dear boy;he also performs live on stage at the end of the film.This work was ,anyway ,a vehicle for the Chanteur.If you do not like this style of music,I would rather suggest "Son Dernier Noel".
The Man from Planet X (1951)
He is afraid.He is totally alone.He is 3 million light years from home.
Stephen Spielberg claimed Ulmer's movie's influence for his celebrated E.T. Enid and her father's surname is Elliot and the young hero of the eighties blockbuster is none other than Elliott.Coincidence?
Made on a shoestring budget in six days in the settings of a movie telling the story of France's most famous heroine,"man from planet X" does predate E.T.; more than 30 years before ,the message is the same :in 1951,Ulmer broke with old habits that made the creatures from outer space scary monsters Our X man is alone,he is afraid,his face is some kind of inscrutable mask (or some kind of Pinocchio-like puppet or some kind of wistful clown);they did not have Carlo Rambaldi's technical abilities,then).The human (or at least Mears and the military men) are considered the bandits or the Indians in bad westerns ;the hero and miss Elliot play the same part as Elliott,but unlike SS,no happy end here.Geometry (and maths in general) could have been an ideal way to communicate;in " Contact" ,"they " used the prime numbers).Enid's last line hints at a missed opportunity.
A director is to film Chekhov's " three sisters" and he is looking for locations in the splendid landscapes of Switzerland.Up come his three actresses ,one of whom is his former wife.The Italian one was foisted by the Producer.And the third one is young girl,a beginner.
It deals with a subject the old glorious cinema had already treated,notably "Les Enfants Du Paradis" :playing a part refers to life and vice versa;the rare scenes they rehearse mix with real life sentences and the viewer cannot always tell the difference between a line in the script and the actors' words.
I must confess I Watched that because of Delphine Seyrig and Lea Massari;without them,I would have given up long before the end.Michel Soutter is a psychic son of the French Nouvelle Vague and his movie suffers accordingly (to these eyes of course):loose screenplay (The director makes sincere attempts to learn the Russian language,Delphine Seyrig,true to herself,blames his macho side whereas he longs for a youth slipping away),persons busy contemplating their navel living in a privileged world,fortune- cookie philosophies -would be deep meaningful and intimate-.Strangely,the movie ends with an instrumental version of the old folk song "Si Tu Veux Faire Mon Bonheur"(=if you want to make me happy)
I know many people will disagree ,but I say it again:it's an intellectual movie for intellectual people ;if you like Eric Rohmer ,you will be delighted ;as for me ,I like Mrs Seyrig best when she works with Bunuel or Demy.
Endless Night (1972)
Why didn't you go the other way?
This is a special case in Agatha Christie's canon .She reportedly wrote it in six weeks and ,coming back to "Roger Acroyd" style ,told her story in the first person by chauffeur Mike ;this is one of her most depressing books ,and the last line is unforgettable,echoing Blake's poem which is mentioned as a foreword.A character ,Ellie's friend Claudia,is ruled out.The detective plot is not unlike that of "death on the Nile",without the exoticism,but with more emotion.The writer also found inspiration in some of her old own short stories "the dream house" (1926) and mainly "the case of the caretaker" (1942 )in which the curse of an old shrew (the character of the movie resembles Christie's depiction) is included.
Gilliat worked with Hitchcock as a screenwriter and it shows,not only because Herrmann wrote the score;the pictures of the seaside and the magnificent Gypsy's Acres landscape recall some early scenes in "Vertigo" .So does Mickael's museum visit.
There are good ideas in the directing :the "four seasons " dream house ,very modern ,in which Ellie sings her baroque aria ;the death of the architect in the hospital;the characters on the painting,coming to life for the final trial ;it seems that -Hitchcock's influence again- the director wanted an ending à la "psycho" .
The stars of "the family way" are here again:Mills and Bennett ; the cast also includes Lois Maxwell (everybody knows as Moneypenny) and George Sanders in his last part.
Remade as a MTV work in which Miss Marple -who solved "the case of the caretaker" I mention above -appears .
Christie reportedly did not like the hot sex scene.
You should leave that to the police!
-I will,sir,I will.
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?).
Some may say it is far-fetched ,and obviously ,it is,but it is part of Agatha Christie's algebra and you will not be disappointed if you investigate with the delightful Julia McKenzie.
"Domino" continued Richebé's tradition:filmed stage production which spawned two of his best productions:"L'Habit Vert" and "Madame sans Gene" as well as his precedent movie" menage à Trois" .
Marcel Achard's play is bittersweet with moments which verge on drama :the hero's missus probably despised him before he left for Africa under the pretext of...buying dog biscuits ;Laurette's lover (Bernard Blier ,cast against type) is a mean bourgeois,laughing at Dominique's pal "who could not be loved for he is bald and not handsome at all",sending his so called rival to death during the hunting ("he is paid for it") .There are funny moments too: the "rehearsal" of the adultery ,the lousy paintings of the patron's protégé relegated to the stairs during the exhibition.
Richebé was certainly not a great Auteur ,but he was a solid craftsman and he knew how to direct his thespians:Fernand Gravey(28 or 26 in the movie,actually 38 in real life and it shows),Simone Renant,BLier,Aimé Clariond and Yves Deniaud ,all of them stage actors too,are excellent.
Les âmes de papier (2013)
The first reviewer is none other than my good friend Leon,so you can trust him when it comes to French/Belgian cinema:he knows what he is talking about.
This is a variation on a subject which has often be treated: someone rises from the dead and has to cope with the world of the living ,but it is given a rather original treatment ,if not always successful.
The film begins a bit like a modern fairytale and continues as a fantasy story,fortunately devoid of those special effects which mar so many films of this kind.The part of the mother is underwritten,and the first sequences focus on the man/child Relationship:to him,he's like a wizard ,who can make his wishes come true ,and he can in a way ,from the lonely snowflake which precedes the return of the father to the lovely pictures of snow falling down on Paris.
The movie becomes too talky when the two men meet ,and amnesia is always the easy way out.But further acquaintance shows this: a physical presence does not bring you one of your dear departed back;incidentally the key is given by Pierre Richard as the old Jew from Warsaw: a person is not only flesh and blood,it's also a lot of memories ,like those the Jews of the WW2 ghetto used to bury in the ground ;and even if he can bring a dead back,the hero is forced to give him his own memories he had buried in his mind after the loss of his wife.And all the padlocks of the Pont Des Arts would not be enough to keep those gone happy hours from emerging again.
Johnny Reno (1966)
Joe is a born loser
This movie already looked like an anachronism when it was released in 1966;the stars are aging actors such as Dana Andrews ,Jane Russell,John Agar ,Lon Chaney Jr ....;the score is awful and does not sound western at all;the last song is MOR pop.
The screenplay is not devoid of interest:it deals with responsibility (French title:" the whole town is guilty");and more than Dana Andrews ' sheriff and his old flame Russell ,Joe Conners is the most interesting character:a very restrained performance whereas John Drake could have turned on melodrama.He is a true loser in a way that Johnny and Nona are not.His sentences in a low voice go straight to the heart: "why my brother?he never did any harm to anyone" "I wish I was never born" "I've never had a chance in life" .The ideal scapegoat,he is the true hero of the final showdown,facing alone the whole bunch of villains.
La fugue de Monsieur Perle (1952)
It's better to be free in a mad woman's house......
....than to be confined in an insane asylum.
Correct me if I'm wrong,but I would venture to guess that ,at the time ,not too many critics could say they were looking at Roger Richebé for new horizons in French Cinema.
Down with the Cahiers Du Cinema and their so called Cinema D'Auteur! La Fugue De Monsieur Perle (1952)(= M. Perle's runaway )is a funny comedy ,which loses a little steam in its last third ,but do not deny yourself an entertaining pleasant farce.
Noel-Noel is a pastry cook,whose stuff (particularly his "Cabanes Au Canada",a cake which has completely disappeared nowadays:too bad,it looks lovely)is appreciated by the holier-than-thou Lady Bountiful who collects them for the Church fair.Unfortunately,he lives with an authoritarian missus and her a cousin ,a retired (ouch!) military man who is also a scrounger.
Opportunity knocks:a rich childless aunt has just died and he 's the sole heir:although they are relatives to the third degree,the French(welfare) state leaves him a relatively nice little sum.
So begins a cock and bull story,which involves a false desperate woman who wants to commit suicide on the Eiffel Tower,a true hooker who steals the dough,amnesia,a mental hospital,a shrink,a lunatic who wants to serve roasted Robespierre for lunch and even (Watch out for his two brief appearances)Louis De Funès fishing in a washbowl("You won't catch anything" "How do you know? Have you ever tried ?")...
After all sorts of incidents ,our hero finds a way to get a tender loving wife and to get rid of the burdensome cousin.
Naturally Richebé was not exactly new horizons in French cinema ,but he's really pretty good after all.