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Franz (1972)
Le Grand Jacques Et L'Aigle Noir., 28 March 2015

This is the first of the two movies Jacques Brel made in the early seventies at a time when he had given up singing.

His movie is not for all taste ,and it was a flop when it was released ,although it was exciting to watch two legends of La Chanson Française,Brel himself and Barbara .

Brel portrays a timorous shy great lump,still Under an over possessive mom's thumb,with whom he communicates by pigeon.He goes sand-yachting ,shrimping on the beach near the boarding-house he lives in.Barbara is cast as a mysterious fallen aristocrat ,always holding an umbrella .

The best scenes are those when the two singers play together: in a bunker,the former mercenary tells the woman he's Fallen for about his military past in Katanga,ridiculously imitating the sound of a machine gun.Franz was a war pal he left dying in a ditch.The character (title) is not featured in the film.

The marvelous landscapes (it's the seaside ,but it's a "Plat Pays" )could be an ideal romantic background for a love both of them have never known.But all that surrounds them is mean,petty bureaucrats,with their wicked jokes (he is served a dead pigeon),and a sensual woman (Daniele Evenou) who sleeps with all the guests of the boarding -house.

Their story was doomed from the start .The last scene is completely unexpected and must have puzzled the viewers.For this final scene,Barbara is cast against type .

This is a worthwhile attempt ,but which should be reserved for fans of the two singers ;the others may give up before the end ,because of the loosely organized script.

Une java (1939)
La Java Bleue, 27 March 2015

This movie mas made to capitalize on the success of Vincent Scotto's "La Java Bleue",a 1938 popular waltz.It's the movie-of-the-song rather than the other way round.The song is heard at least four or five times(or at least an instrumental version) ,but one of them is riveting:Frehel ,who recorded the song ,performs it in a dance hall,and it's the best moment of a rather mediocre flick:Frehel was certainly Edith Piaf's biggest influence.

As far as the screenplay is concerned,it's the umpteenth story of a man ,falsely accused of murder and sent to jail;the scene of his escape takes us back to the silent age .That the story is interspersed with music numbers does not help.Old-fashioned acting.

Alice's restaurant 1917, 26 March 2015

The original soundtrack features a Brel song written for the movie called "La Chanson De Van Horst",the last verse of which is particularly depressing;but depressing,the movie is not.

It tells the Canadian adventures of a Flemish man(!),a raider ,who meets a young lad and introduces him to the joys of life .While the Europeans are waging war (it's 1917) ,the place the two heroes wind up in ,"Le Bar De La Fourche" (the pitchfork bar),is the "peace bar" ,where they spit on the army recruiter who wants these revelers to gloriously die for the Alsace and the Lorraine.But Van Horst and his artless fellow are more interested in women,and they both want to marry Annie Smith (Isabelle Huppert,her debut if we do not count her very small part in "Faustine Ou Le Bel Eté").

Unfortunately ,the screenplay is desultory ,and the director leaves his actors to their own devices,which leads good ones such as Rosy Varte and Brel himself to overplay."Le Bar De La Fourche" has its moments ,but, as a whole ,it's sometimes boring.

The godfather, 25 March 2015

Fans of De Funès may be disappointed,for,as it was often the case in those early years,his appearance does not exceed three minutes .

In fact ,the true hero of this short is a brat who is to drive his "racing car" in a derby;but alas he crushes a whole lot of vegetables and his father has to pay for the damage;his race seems very doubtful now.

His only hope is his godfather who works in a factory;he looks for him and the movie becomes an interesting documentary about the automobile manufacturers of the fifties .Night comes in and the boy is still among the machines which are still working.There a dream sequence which might have inspired Georges Franju for his own " La Première Nuit"(1958).

The movie can also be looked upon as a tribute to the Quatre Chevaux ,the French car of the era.(400 per day ,no less)

The last sequence shows that,even back in 1951,boys knew more about cars than their dads .

A pleasant short.

Business is business, 25 March 2015

The nouveau Riche subject was much better applied on Jean Dréville's "Les Affaires Sont Les Affaires " (1942);that movie and "Les Nouveaux Riches" have many things in common: the now wealthy man has his sight fixed high and is cynical enough to ruin his concurrent;his friend's wife is not used to live in a castle and she shows herself gauche when she welcomes her chic guests .And last but not least,only the Young lovers know that money cannot buy happiness.

Dreville's movie is based on Octave Mirbeau's scathing play ,and that accounts for the difference between the two movies:"Les Nouveaux riches" has a rather flat script,devoid of great lines .The actors are left to their own devices,and fortunately they are great:Michel Simon and Raimu together is just a joy although they did not get on very well and the latter swore he would never make a movie with the former again;the irresistible Betty Stockfeld who starred in "Fanfare D'Amour" ,the first version of "some like it hot" ,is wasted.

NB:The "Les Affaires Sont Les Affaires "lead was to be Raimu too,but he was finally replaced by Charles Vanel,who gave a memorable performance.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Ain't no fortunate son!, 24 March 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

MANY SPOILERS "Catene" "Tormato" ,films starring the same principals,are melodramas,the whole melodrama and nothing but melodrama. In "I Figli Di Nessuno" ,Raffaello Nazzari appears as the Italian Douglas Sirk.

Now Douglas Sirk appears like some kind of melodrama revolutionary whereas directors such as Nazzari are dismissed as unhip;just compare the endings of "Figli" and "Imitation of life" (1959):both movies end with a funeral ,and dare it be said,Sirk is more reactionary than his Italian colleague:betraying the original novel by Fanny Hurst,he makes black servant Annie a woman who knows her place and whose only hope is to have a beautiful funeral!

"Figli"'s final scene is ,though melodramatic to a fault,extremely beautiful:"it's no sacrilege ,says the "white angel" ,it's for an angel who is already with You",as she throws the flowers on the coffin from her convent's window.

"figli" includes several stand out scenes :

-the old countess (Françoise Rosay ,in one of her nastiest parts ,the French should appreciate) dying when her daughter-in-law is stealing her testament.

-The meeting on the road between the son and the nun,near the well;it looks like a dreamlike sequence,and when the desperate father tells his dying son his mom is gone to heaven,we do believe for a short while, that it was a supernatural scene .

-The boy,working in a quarry,who takes a rebel stand and refuses his boss's (actually his father) charity ;in melodramas,children are often nice,gentle and sniveling:this brat is not ,he is proud and sides with the working men,sweating Under the sun ,for a starvation wage .

Of course there are many coincidences ,implausibilities,but not more than in Sirk's "magnificent obsession" ;besides the female lead ,Yvonne Samson has not that much time on the screen;which tends to show that Nazarro made the Young illegitimate son the real hero of the movie (check the title :"nobody's son").

When the movie was released ,the Office Catholique Du Cinema" blamed the priest for violating the seal of confession.

The ending must have sent the viewers tearing to an entire box of Kleenex;that's probably why the director felt compelled to film " white angel" ,a sequel,more far-fetched than "Figlio".

If you like melodramas ,this is a must.And I love Douglas Sirk too,mind you,but do not use his name and fame to put other directors down.Nazzaro is no genius,but he is skillful at creating good melodramas.

East side story, 21 March 2015

It's a pleasure for a French to watch highly talented Odile Versois in an Asquith movie;born a Russian (Poliakov) ,this part was tailor made for her:her three sisters were/are also actresses ,the most famous of them being Marina Vlady.In France she was not often given the parts she deserved and she prematurely died in the early eighties.

This could be subtitled "Romeo and Juliet in the cold war" ;An American falling in love with a Russian ambassador in those somber years is a dead end.Both become suspects,accused of being traitors to their countries.Chased by their own compatriots ,on both side (of the iron curtain although it takes place in england),they take a rebel stand and send a message of love,hope and tolerance to the world.

This is a touching melodrama,well acted by the two principals.

Walls have ears., 19 March 2015

A man who divorces buys a desirable new mansion in the country ;he discovers a wire-tapping set ,which enables him to spy on his children ,his servants,his secretary and even his tricky editor(he is a best-selling writer,the toast of the town ,and women are dying for his autograph).Not bad for an idea,but dreadful screenplay ,which verges on coarseness.

Jean Girault was an unambitious director ;yet,some of his movies had their funny moments,and those moments stem from the indomitable presence of Louis De Funès.(notably the Gendarme saga ,particularly the first episodes).Nobody at all in this film has ever been in the business of supplying laughters ;neither Louis Velle (with whom Girault had already done the eminently forgettable "Permis De Conduire" nor his co-stars (Martine Sarcey and Chantal Nobel) are comic actors;let's be nice and forget Christine Fabrega as "Gilda" and Emmanuel De Sablet as the offspring.

Not in the first flush of youth, 18 March 2015

"Dernière Jeunesse"(=final youth) for Georges (Raimu) ,an aging man whose money cannot buy him love. He meets a pretty girl (One of Guitry's favorite actresses,Jacqueline Delubac ) who claims she's cold and hungry and he falls for her;his landlord cannot tolerate a chick in a decent house so he has to move into a new apartment which looks out onto the sea ;in fact ,his mistress is not faithful and it won't be long till she falls for another guy: the younger Frosselle (Pierre Brasseur),a smug buck .Tragedy is around the corner.

In spite of the three principals,the story never really takes off:the screenplay is hackneyed and the listless directing accentuates the paucity of this story of jealousy.

Au nom des fils (2014) (TV)
God sent his angel to Abraham,didn't he?, 18 March 2015

The FRench scouts are relatively few (France is ranked 16th ,far behind the USA and the UK);there are 50 organizations,only 9 of which are recognized by the French government (it's important to fully understand the film);some scouts do not wear uniforms anymore,I met some of them a few years back when they helped us with our charity organization;but many of them have their own values ,their code of honor,and they do have God on their side(it's obvious in the film).There is a scout literature -which can be found in denominational schools libraries- ,with their writers ("Signe De Piste" collection):their perfect fictional hero ,now a little forgotten,was Le Prince Eric who epitomized their ideal - and self-sacrifice spirit , which is present in the movie too- whose saga sold more than one million copies.

Now for the MTV work:it's based on true events which happened in 1998,only the names were changed .Four scouts and a young man who comes to their rescue get drowned ,because of the criminal (not a truer word) negligence of the priest,responsible for the group;most amazing thing ,most of the parents stand by their saint man ,just saying it was God's will.Only two mothers sue the priest ,which leads one of them to divorce from a husband,securely under the influence of a person we must call a guru (the word is uttered in the movie).

This is above average MTV stuff ,done with a sense of decency: the tragedy is not shown ,but told by the helpless witnesses;the great dignity of the two rebel women (Isabelle Gelinas and Lea Drucker). The movie features strong intimate scenes:one mother throwing a rose into the sea which will never give her son's body back;the other one ,listening to her dead son's voice on the answering machine ,then discovering her husband has erased it.On the other hand,the part of the priest is a little underwritten.

Fundamentalism in any religion is a scourge of society.

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