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All that did not teach him a lesson!, 24 October 2016

Gérard Oury,many people often forget it,was first an actor ,before becoming one of the most successful directors (the greatest ,to many);not only he played in plenty of French movies ,but he was also featured in Milestone's "they who dare" and Walsh's "sea devils" (the part of Napoleon).

In France-Soir newspaper,Paul Gordeaux drew comic strips ,which were transferred twice to the screen in 1961: one was "Les Amours Célèbres",directed by Michel Boisrond ;the second was OURY's "crime does not pay" ;both movies were made of sketches ;at least to my eyes,Oury's work has the edge on Boisrond's ;not only he had a dream of a cast ,but he has also some of the best French screenwriters of the time .

The trick Oury uses to open his movie is so smart that I will not reveal it to leave you the surprise :after Cayatte (Les Amants De VERONE" ) and Duvivier ("La Fete A Henriette ) ,Oury simply renewed the "movie in the movie" technique with skill! eat your heart out ,Truffaut!

The first sketch is also the last in this bizarre construction!

Segment 2 :Le Masque or "revenge is a dish best eaten hot " Edwige Feuillère ,Gabrielle Ferzetti,Rosanna Schiaffino screenplay by Aurenche and Bost who wrote so many great stories I could not mention them all. From an Italian chronicle by Stendahl Venice ,fifteenth century: an aging aristocrat 's mirror shows that her beauty is ,slowly but inexorably ,fading away;she's in love with a knight who is also a spy in the pay of the Genois;the lady's brother ,a powerful politician had him throw in a dungeon ;to free him,she reveals her sibling she's her accomplice cause she provides him with information :a scandal may break .To make the matters worse,there's a second young aristocrat ,still young and beautiful.

This sketch may be the best of the lot: the settings are sumptuous and Oury outdoes himself in the terrific scene of the trap:sinister- looking figures appear ,one by one,at the end of every dark street of the city ,and the chapel of rest is a Gothic stroke of inspiration to rival the best moments in horror and fantasy movie.

Segment 3: "L'Affaire Hugues " or "a woman with a sense of honor" Michele Morgan,PHilippe Noiret,Pierre Mondy,Jean Servais ,Lucienne Bogaert based on the Hugues case circa 1887;to ruin a Deputé 's reputation, they claim that his wife had an extra-marital affair .

A conventional story ,on a vague political background ,but Henri Jeanson's caustic lines hit home when the chic bourgeois lady meets the shady "private eye" and the semi-whore :Jeanson remembers Georges Feydeau Some episodes are told by often genuine caricatures,engravings and testimonial pictures.

Segment 4 :L'Affaire Feynarou or 'to kill two birds with one stone" Annie Girardot,Pierre Brasseur,Christian Marquand ,Paul Guers.

A man tells his mistress he 's going to get married for the bride 's dowry but that he intends to keep her too ;her husband discovers a compromising letter and threatens to kill the lover;so the wife urges the soon-to-be-marry hunk to kill her spouse ("it would be self-defense")

This segment is a thriller,which is not a surprise ,coming from the famous team Boileau-Narcejac ("Vertigo" and " Diabolique" );even though the ending is predictable,their story is full of unexpected twists and could have been part of the "Alfred Hitchcock presents " series.

Segment 1 (and 5!):"L'Homme de L'Avenue " or "accidents will happen" Danielle Darrieux ,Richard Todd,Perrette Pradier. A man ,who wants to commit the perfect crime (and to fly away with his lover) ,secures an irrefutable alibi;but you can't think of everything ;the "alibi",an English driver ,an officer in uniform plays the occasional Hercule Poirot..

Written by Frederic Dard ,who teamed up with Oury for his second (and very good) effort "La menace" , it's another excellent thriller,with a great final unexpected twist which shows a witty humor,far from San Antonio,but there's no accounting for taste !

A (good) omen: Louis De Funès appears (yes,he does!) in this last segment ,his English (his Franglais more like) is riotously funny ...tO think that Oury/De Funès ,along with Bourvil,were about to dominate the French all-time box-office with their triumphs :"LE Corniaud " "La Grande Vadrouille" "Rabbi Jacob ,etc ...

These blockbusters outstripped "crime does not pay" which is a very entertaining work and certainly deserves to be (re)discovered by his fans (not only them!).

Fanfare ,ersatz soap and flypaper, 21 October 2016

All the copies of this film were reportedly destroyed by the Nazis but one during the WW2 occupation .

By a strange irony of fate ,it depicts life in occupied Belgium circa 1918;and it is an offbeat work;it does not display any patriotism (unless we count the part of the son ,a prisoner who escapes and joins the resistance fighters).

But the Nazis were perhaps cross because the children ape their military drill ;and the A33,the secret formula stronger than bombs and canons is none other than that of some kind of flypaper ;showing the Kommantur trying to steal this is not very flattering.

Anyway ,the directors puts the people from his land in a slightly less heroic light than we've been used to seeing them (or other people from Europa)in propaganda movies.Ersatz (the soap) and black market are not passed over in silence ;and the travelers pushing the train is not exactly what we call passive resistance .

With the exception of Pauline Carton,all the cast is unknown in France.

Thou shalt not steal...., 20 October 2016

The screenwriters should have had a look at the Bible :the seventh commandment reads : "thou shalt not commit adultery ";their movie actually deals with the eighth one:Thou shalt not steal....

It's the remake of Raymond Bernard's own "J'Etais Une Aventurière" ,Edwige Feuillère reprising her part of an adventuress .

A false Russian princess (thanks to the 1917 revolution,many crooks pass themselves off as part of the Russian aristocracy ),helped by two henchmen ,seduces wealthy men to divest them of their precious jewels ;some day she falls in love with one of her victims ,but her accomplices are not prepared to accept it....

This is a very entertaining comedy:never a dull moment ,no filler ,with a majestic Edwige Feuillère and an excellent cast:Jacques Dumesnil and Jacques Morel ,as two clumsy robbers,Jean Lefèvre as auntie Emilie's grown up kid;Micheline Dax' s short appearance as Feuillère's replacement is riotously funny.

Raymond Bernard's follow-up to "Les Fruits De L'Ete" which also featured Feuillère, "Le Septième Commandement" was followed with another "Septième" (seventh), "Le Septième Ciel",his swansong and another successful comedy full of black humor,featuring Danielle Darrieux.

NB In a way ,this movie also advertises Verigoud (sic) soda,as the threesome enjoys a refreshment with a big poster behind them;this beverage which left you with yellow or orange lips (depending on your choice:lemon or orange)is still reportedly selling in Algeria where it was invented.

The members of the wedding, 19 October 2016

Famous singer Charles Trénet made two movies with director Jean Boyer;for the record ,the precedent was "Romance De Paris";both are entertaining unpretentious stuff;Unlike some old-fashioned singers,when you deal with "Le Fou Chantant' (the singing lunatic) ,you do not have to push the fast forward button.And the writer of "La Mer" (translated as "beyond the sea") does sing three compositions :"Frederica" ,the infectious "Marie -Toi"and the wistful "Le Bonheur Ne Passe Qu'Une Fois".You even see him working on "Marie -toi " in his apartment ,and catch a glimpse of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre in the background.

Gilles Legrant is a singing poet ;his friends do not approve of his impending wedding ,not suitable for someone who leads a bohemian life ;anyway ,the soon-to-be-bride is a snub silly goose who asks to the servant to speak to her in the third person .Letters to a mysterious woman only makes the matters worse.Soon ,Gilbert is stuck with three "fiancees .It seems that the ideal wife is only a mirage.

Charles Trénet 's best moment in the movies remains his segment in the overlooked "La Cavalcade Des Erreurs" in which he sings his perennial "Que Reste-T-IL De Nos Amours?"

Ticket to ride, 18 October 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There is something of Bertold Brecht in this movie ;in his short story,"Die Unwürdige Greisin" (masterfully transferred to the screen by René Allio as "La Vieille Dame Indigne " -the shameless old lady-),the German writer told us the story of a woman who spent her whole life cooking ,washing ,house-cleaning for her family ;after her husband's death ,she decided she would at last live her life :she bought a car ,she went to the pictures : her first life lasted sixty years ;her second only eighteen months ;but she had eaten the bread of life till its last crumbs.

Pipe (it's a nickname ;we will never know his real one) works on a farm;he is not mistreated ,he sits at the table with the farmer and his wife ,but nobody would have thought that after 30 years ,he would like to know more than the barn ,the farm yard and the manure heap .The day he buys a moped changes his life ;much to the farmer's surprise (and displeasure) ,he sometimes runs away (check the title) and discovers the world ;his first ride is superbly filmed : when he reaches the end of the forest ,an impressive panoramic shot shows a landscape who does not seem to end ;he visits a chocolate factory (De Rigueur in Switzerland ) ,attends a motocross race ,wins a camera ;after an accident,he's deprived of his vehicle but he does not confess himself beaten : the noise of his camera almost sounds like a protest.

The director depicts ,in great detail ,the life of a family of farmers

circa 1970-80: the father is becoming a man of the past ,and the son's attitude is a trifle contemptuous "it's only figures,you would not understand ";they are not "villains " ,they are not cardboard characters,mother makes a cake for the Italian boy who works on the farm with Pipe ,the modern son plays football with his farmhands .

The farmer cannot understand why his farm hand who has been working for him for thirty years ,and has had a day off (Sundays) every week ,can feel like going away during the week ;but he does not realize that agriculture is undergoing massive changes even though this evolution is very slow .The photographs Pipe takes may actually be the last account of the "old age" ,just before the master calls it a day .

Hence the running time of the movie (135 min) which might put off some viewers .But if you are looking for something different ,this may be your cup of tea;Michel Robin reminds me of Michel Simon,a more restrained Michel Simon :that means a lot!

The last tango in Deauville, 18 October 2016

Philippe Clair's first effort...And the beginning of a series of hopeless coarse farces ,each one lousier than the one before ;with this director ,we really plumbs the depths of stupidity ,the French cinema hits rock bottom.Along with Max Pecas, he reigns over the French bomb . It will not be vital to "add a plot" on the IMDb page ,for there's virtually none.

Four Pieds-Noirs (French colonial born in Algeria) leave their African homeland for the broader horizons of France where they look at the girls like the wolf in Tex Avery's cartoons ;too weak to work ,they will live a life of luxury ,for one of them becomes a kept man (by Annie Girardot whose presence I almost passed over in silence ,if only out of respect for the sadly missed great actress);they go places ,they mess around ...what more can I write?

Oddly,this coarse comedy is given a new wavelet treatment ,which does not help matters: filming on location, cult of youth, woman doing soul-searching,hip places (Deauville,Cannes ),loose screenplay (and I mean loose)...

One of the four pals is miscast :how could we believe the late French-American Mike Marshall is a Pied -Noir?On the other hand ,a genuine Pied -Noir, singer Enrico Macias has a cameo and performs one of his big mid-sixties hits "Paris Tu M'As Pris Dans Tes Bras "

If this poor flick triggered something off in your mind,much good may it do you!

Angélique ,Une Amie Qui Vous Veut Du Bien., 17 October 2016

"Par accident" appears first as a detective story with social concern a la Georges Simenon ,but it finally turns into a Boileau/Narcejac murder mystery ,with a car chase (between two women!) almost worthy of the Bronson's vehicle " De la Part Des Copains ".

However the real meat here lies more in a face to face than in a thriller ,the unexpected twist being finally derivative .Two excellent actresses confront each other,directed by a woman director - women ,in the French cinema,make more and more their presence felt in the directing field-:

Hafzsia Herzia -remarkable opposite Emmanuelle Beart in the depressing " Ma Compagne De Nuit "- gives a restrained performance of an immigrant without working papers ,fascinated by Angélique (what a well-chosen name!!),a well-wisher (some kind of female Harry from the memorable "Harry Un Ami Qui Vous Veut Du Bien" );her husband shows himself a weak man ,unable to support her through her ordeal:she really wears the pants.

Emilie Dequenne shines in her part of an unscrupulous nurse ,happy- go-lucky, a crude so-called friend who little by little dominates the couple .More educated (although she claims she had an awful childhood,she nonetheless became a nurse),stalking male or female preys (she might have a lesbian side),she manipulates the poor girl ,already exploited by a smooth-tongued boss, who desperately struggles to remain a decent woman ;she's horrified when her evil genius talks about a little injection or when she casually says :"no matter?He's dead !"Angélique 's cynicism knows no bounds.

The general critical opinion towards this movie added up to a consensus that it was a good thriller,but that the ending fell through ;I tend to agree with it,but both actresses 'playing makes the movie really worth watching.

Love in the afternoon., 16 October 2016

Claude Anet's novel did take place in Russia,with scenes in Moscow and Crimea ;its two adaptations were set mostly in Paris.

In the screenplay based upon the book ,Arianne (Gaby Morlay) remains "Une Jeune Fille Russe" (a Russian maid):however only the ten first minutes deal with something vaguely Russian:Arianne and her (adoptive?) family exchange a handful of lines in her first language ,and there's a letter (in French!) from daddy ,who urges his daughter to come back and marry a well respected young man ;but she turns down the offer and continues her studies in La Sorbonne .On a night at the opera ,where she attends a Mozart's "Don Juan "performance ,she meets a handsome graybeard (Victor Francen);in spite of age difference between the two characters ,then begins a love story :Anna,while still a virgin,pretends she had many lovers before him (eight of them,in all).

It's sure easy to see why the writers kept Anna 's Russian nationality ,because a true French young girl must behave herself ,obey her dear father ,marry a healthy young man, raise children and forget studies .The French censorship would perhaps not have agreed with Anna's free life ,had she been a genuine French maiden .

That said,can this portrayal of a "modern" young girl grab today's audience?I have my doubts: this movie is a big bore ,the lines are not witty or funny ,in need of someone who can supply real humor,acidity,bite ,savor,someone like Sacha Guitry .The interminable scene in the opera theater where Francen eyes at Morlay is a bore to end all bores : only Mozart's music makes it bearable .No chemistry between the two principals either :Morlay's spontaneous style and Francen's solemn acting are not really in harmony .

Czinner had made a first English version ("the loves of Arianne ") the precedent year.It was probably this one which inspired .....

.....the remake by Billy Wilder in 1957 as "love in the afternoon" ,starring Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn; the screenplay was entirely reworked (adding a new character played by Maurice Chevalier ) but the endings are similar.Although I rank Wilder in my all time top 10 directors,I must confess his movie is not among my favorites of his either.

Who knows how long I've loved you?, 15 October 2016

I urge all Beatles' lovers who enjoyed Freda Kelly's story to try and see "Arena: produced by George Martin";it completes this one which features a very interesting portrayal of Brian Epstein Freda Kelly referred to as "Eppie".

It's a wonderful magical mystery tour through the past,as Freda opens her archives in her attic (she gave away most of her items to fans in the first half of the seventies when the fan club closed down .considering the large amount of letters (which grew exponentially over the years ) and other stuff she could have sold,she could be a millionaire today ,as she says; just take a look at the prices on ebay.

Hired at 17 by Epstein,Freda was her secretary,and we get a fly-on- the-wall account of the Beatle mania years; Freda always stayed in the shadow,it was her friend who demanded her wage should be raised .But her anecdotes are a treat to hear:Ringo's nine letters ,Lennon 's metaphor of the desert island where Freda would be safe with "Eppie",the devoted Harrison family always here to give a helping hand,the Moody Blues episode where she was almost "fired" .

When she left the greatest musical phenomenon of the sixties,Freda had to continue to earn her living ;she never complained ,although she got a raw deal :her son Timothy prematurely died and she deeply moves us when she says that she did not tell him much about her past (which almost every English girl envy);the birth of a grandson makes her change her mind and spawn this absorbing documentary.

She never wrote a book ,but this movie will replace it for Beatles' fans .Although she was bruised by her son's death ,she does mention all these people ,part of the legend ,who died well before their time: Epstein,Lennon and Harrison,Moe Cox and Linda McCartney, Derek Taylor....

Let her take you down and you 're going to memory lane,where everything is real.

The shameless old lady, 13 October 2016

Even though the movie was inspired by a true story ,it was fictionalized.

The first thing to bear in mind is that this story should be considered the depicting of a woman's OWN choice;we are not asked to argue or to judge;and that,although it was labeled " comedy" it's not a barrel of laughs;it is precisely the kind of movie which you cannot leave unharmed .As the precedent user wrote in his/her insightful comment,the subject concerns us all:what will we do when the time comes?

After years and years of supporting roles ,where Marthe Villalonga often played the over possessive mother ,she is at last given the lifetime part ;her performance is thoroughly admirable :a restrained portrayal ,full of dignity ,never falling into the trap of self-pity and sentiment;although ten years younger than her character,she manages to make us feel the burden of life when your body aches,you wet your panties and your legs are giving way under you .Matching her every step of the way is Sandrine Bonnaire 's distraught daughter who,little by little,comprehends her mother's decision to end a life "which will end bedridden in a gloomy hospital",even though she does not approve of it: who could anyway?

There are flaws indeed: Bonnaire's organic- food- husband hams it up all along the way ,and the same almost (but not completely) goes for her "Bim Boom surf" son;the flashbacks (and the movies from the past) are a bit of an overkill (the heroine dives in the nude in the last picture);symbolism is often ponderous :in Bonnaire's nightmare , the little girl,lost in the cemetery finds her mom's grave;granny has not been out of the hospital all of one minute when she runs into a woman about to give birth to a child -she was a midwife,a women's lib activist ,she championed all the causes going .We can also find that Bonnaire's colleague,at school,is a caricature who " got rid of her own mom in a house for retired people and wants Diane to share her guilty feeling : too facile an effect!

Fortunately all that remains is often deeply moving : the 92nd birthday celebration and granny's speech ;the black neighbor 's wisdom and her lovely African ballad which will return in the final cast and credits;the song Madeleine ,her unfortunate room mate and the nurse's aid break into (Gilbert Becaud's "Et Maintenant" =what now my love?) makes sense and it makes a change from the eternal English or American songs every modern French director includes .The trip to the place where an old flame of Madeleine lives his twilight years : this short sequence reminds me of Ingmar Bergman's "wild strawberries ".A crepuscular scene shows the two women watching the sunset .

In this would be comedy,comic relieves are few and far between :the distraught brother taking his dog to the vet cause he's eaten my mother's pills ; the stream of physicians ,coming to "cure " the old lady ,but actually providing her with the medicine she needs for...the movie flirts with black humor,for a short while.

I do not think it's a movie for the whole family as IMDb page suggests ;I say it again,this film depicts man's universal fate,and a way to die on your feet,to quote the heroine.

Two movies had already depicted the story of two women ,a young one ("Und Morgen Mittag Bin Ich Tot")and an older one ("Quelques Heures De Printemps" ) ;but they were terminally-ill persons who chose assisted suicide in Switzerland .Madeleine ,on her part ,could be still living years of sufferings and decrepitude :she decided she would not.Even if we do not approve of her,we have got to respect HER choice ,who might be OURS ,some day.

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