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Never on Saturday, 27 July 2014

Alex Joffé was never considered an important director,but he made a handful of good movies ,which are still pleasant to Watch,and sometimes far from being derivative.

"Six Heures A Perdre"(1946)in which a man is mistaken for another one ;a traveler who is just passing by and plays the part of another one;a story with an unexpected end.

"Les Fanatiques",a film in real time ,dealing with terrorism and some kind of disaster movie ,ahead of its time

"Fortunat" ,one of Bourvil's best part ,and in some sequences a hymn to friendship between an average French and a Jewish family ,during the Occupation.

"Les Cracks " ,his final work,featured a young girl dressed up as a boy, a subject which you also find in "Pas Question Le Samedi" .

"Pas Question Le Samedi " :you shall not work on Sabbath . This 1964 comedy (which went unnoticed the very year when "Le Corniaud" became one of France's biggest blockbusters) borrows from Capra ("It's a wonderful life: the divine intervention,the dad/son exchange,the final sequence , recalls sometimes George and his guarding angel),Wilder (the tango scene directly comes from "some like it hot" if we reverse the sexes )

But it is Robert Hirsh's tour de force :he plays twelve (you read well) different characters,including a woman ,equalling Alec Guiness ,Jerry Lewis ,and his illustrious compatriots Fernandel and Michel Simon;like them ,he can inject emotion in a scene :you will be moved when the son whose father died in a concentration camp is not interested in money anymore (thus smashing to pieces a cliché about Jews).

The screenplay is often funny,witty ,sometimes a bit muddled ,but there is never a dull moment.By fusing Tourneur's "Péchés De Jeunesse" (1941),Lubitsch's "Heaven can wait" (1943)and the classic story of the search for heirs ,Alex Joffé ,in his own modest way,brings it all back home.

Dedicated to Max,without whom I 'd never have been able to review this work!, 26 July 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Few directors are more despised than Marcel Camus in his native France ;some of his works,including this one,are not mentioned in the "Dictionnaire Des Films" ;"Orfeu Negro " is granted one measly star whereas it got the Palme D'Or in Cannes and known all around the world. Ever since his first effort ,the overlooked "Mort En Fraude" ,he began exoticism,which makes him ,in a way,the forerunner of such a director as Régis Warnier.

Things began to deteriorate after "L'Oiseau De Paradis " and he ditched his trademark (exoticism ): "Le Chant Du Monde " ,Vivre La Nuit " or "Le Mur De L' Atlantique -only memorable as it is Bourvil's last film- were poor efforts and retrospectively tarnished his reputation by association ;a reputation which was already attacked by the critics ,because of " his two bit exoticism ".

"L'Oiseau De Paradis" retains,even today , a pristine charm;there is something fascinating when you are watching it;it's an estimable work,if only for its spontaneity ,for his vignettes depicting Cambodia in the early sixties.

The screenplay is derivative ,and the whole thing resembles "Orfeu Negro" ,but it hardly touched public imagination in the way the 1958 movie did;hence its commercial failure (and the four-year break between " L'Oiseau" and "Le Chant Du Monde" ).

The similarities between the two works are striking: Orfeu is engaged to Myra ;the bird of paradise predicts that Dara and Khems are meant for each other....And as Orfeu falls for Eurydice ,it's love at first sight for Dara and Sok ,a young man who just refused to become a Buddhist monk.Nothing will happen as it was "planned".

Eurydice is chased by a man dressed up as a skeleton (Death) ;Khem will represent death in "L'Oiseau".In both worlds ,modernism means threat ,fear ,destruction: Khem's car which pursue the lovers ,the powerhouse where Eurydice dies.

Camus tried to link his story with scenes of Cambodian life;it is not as convincing as in"Orfeu Negro" .Nevertheless the opening scene and the following events ,depicting happy-go-Lucky without a penny to his name Sok shows he was not made to be a monk.The play within the play ,à la "Hamlet" ,is also a good idea.Tith ,the little orphan boy is endearing.

One should never praise enough Camus for his honesty,as far as the languages are concerned .His movie was dubbed in French for the theaters ,but it was possible,like for "Orfeu Negro" to watch the movies in their original version with subtitles.Some actors of this movie reportedly became big stars in their country.

Un ange (2001)
My baby left me!, 25 July 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I certainly like Richard Berry,who can show lots of emotion,when he is given good material to work with.His female co-star ,Elsa Zilberstein,plays like a zombie .The whole cast is mediocre ,with the exception of the suave Pascal Greggory,the only one who really pulls out.

A cop kills a Young man in self-defense ;his sister kidnaps the policeman's baby;this could have been a good beginning .Unfortunately the screenwriters made a real mess of the subject.It's hardly a spoiler to write that the movie ends when (almost)everybody's dead.

The biblical quotation at the beginning (of course the Apocalyse is de rigueur) would like to influence the viewer and make him believe he is going to watch an "important" "serious" "meaningful " work,which a turgid -and in the last scenes absolutely unbearable - music tends to reinforce .

Obviously ,the director tried to imitate ,in his last thirty minutes,"the godfather part 3" or De Palma's "Scarface"...and doesn't know ,has no idea at all it's the mindless gory Vandammesque two-bit thriller it actually seems to me.

Richard Berry's fans :take to your heels and pick another movie!Courtois had directed him in a better way in "Une Journée De Merde " ,a modest pleasant little comedy.

A priest is a man., 25 July 2014

It's MTV quality ,but it was an overlooked courageous move when it was released whereas it's one of La Patelière's most interesting movies ;still relevant today,when the priest are denied the right to marry .The Catholic Church has still a long way to go.

Robert Hossein is a true believer;he staged a successful production called "Un Homme Nommé Jesus ";both he and his excellent co-star ,the sadly missed Claude Piéplu ,were known for their liberal -even leftist - ideas.

The action takes place between 1936 and 1942,with a very relevant epilogue in 1970. Priest Hossein falls in love with a lovely girl (Claude Jade ,Truffaut's protégée),he gets her pregnant,which ,in 1936 ,was scandalous .The main flaw is the depiction of the Relationship,which seems very natural;no stream of consciousness,the priest does not ask himself any questions,and ,as the other priest tells him :"you are individualistic ,you do not see the world around you,what happens in Spain or in Germany ...."

The scene with the bishop is revealing: our enemy is the communist ; Claude Piéplu ,who helps the generous communist mayor (Pierre Mondy),tells him so :"for a priest,it's as dangerous to be with a commie as to be with a woman!";all that makes the epilogue all the more revolting .

Perhaps the movie tackles too many subjects ,and sometimes the viewer forget the main subject : "if protestant ministers can have wife and children,why can't we?

The Lord's vineyard, 24 July 2014

In French "to be in the Lord's vineyard" means to be drunk.

This is a "film of the play",a play from the mainstream popular theater ,and the remake of the 1932 movie.

Let's accentuate the positive :Be patient ,for Fernandel appears at the 19th minute ;the supporting actors are all excellent:Simone Valère ,Pierre Dux ,Jeanne Fusier-Gir("I married a M.O."),and the lovely brunette Evelyne Dandry who finally found a good part in Ozon's first effort "sitcom" (1997),cast here as a false wide-eyed and innocent ingénue ;Beatrice Bretty as an unwed mom ,in search of a good catch for her daughter;Jean Garland plays the part of a typical English gentleman,but he is French. The best scene remains ,like in the first version ,the "confession" of the sinner Fernandel who has lost all self-control Under the influence of booze.

Fernandel made many movies with Jean Boyer ,but this one is not among the best;take "Sénéchal Le Magnifique" or "Le Couturier De Ces Dames " instead.

My granddad was a baron., 21 July 2014

This movie was made for Luis Mariano's fans ,only for them;if you are not,you must move on.The Bel Canto aficionados will be overjoyed ,for ,like all Mariano's vehicles such as "Violettes Impériales" ,it is a musical ,including sequences in costume .

The beginning when the girls' idol's wedding is announced is quite realistic ,although the chosen one remains quite obscure .Things go downhill afterward ,as far the screenplay is concerned.

The singer is a genuine noble ,and his granddaddy ,about to die (or is he a great pretender?) of an attack ,wants the prodigal Grandson to come home ,that is to the ancestors ' desirable château.It will be the scene of light-hearted coming and goings of lovers ,a kind of thing the average viewer has seen a hundred times or more.

Brunette Maria Mauban was one of the stars of the French fifties ,but never made a memorable movie before calling quit in 1958.Jules Berry overplays and is quite unbearable (he overplayed in "Le Jour Se Lève" too,but in a sublime way;pick up Carné's or Renoir's works,if you want to see what the man is capable of).Louis De Funès appears in numerous scenes,as the faithful servant,but he is not really given a single chance to shine .

For Mariano's fans only.He possessed an outstanding voice,but was a very limited actor.

Hi Doc (1957)
A doctor's work is never done., 21 July 2014

That was the time when doctors made house calls;then there were the office hours;our hero ,a "Toubib" (=doc),is a Good Samaritan,committed to his work ,ceaselessly coming out,to see a terminally-ill old lady in the hospital or visit a hoarse Chanteuse ;needless to say,he gulps his lunch down,eager to come back to his patients .A saint of a doctor!

These goody-two-shoes characters were Noel-Noel's métier :the discreet resistant in "Le Père Tranquille " (1946) or the supervisor with a golden heart who shows delinquent youth the straight and narrow through music and singing in "La Cage Aux Rossignols " (1945,extremely successfully remade as "Les Choristes ")

There is no unifying thread in the screenplay ,but rather a series of vignettes of a doctor's life ,from dusk to dawn and even then....in the night,in the sleepy city , when our good man is going to sleep the sleep of the just,his phone rings.

A vague plot concerns the doc's offspring "Junior" ,who just failed his final exam in medicine ;but following a misunderstanding,dad thinks sonny brilliantly succeeded and he's telling all the world;the helpless son cannot resign himself to telling the truth to his papa ;besides,he 's got a girlfriend whose daddy steps in .

Awful! The boy does not want to become a doctor anymore. The squeeze's daddy does not want her daughter to marry him!

To solve this kind of problems,there is nothing like a good suicide! Do not panic,everything will work out fine afterward.

The movie begins (and ends) with a voice-over which describes the sleepy city of Paris;an imitation of the prologue of Duvivier's " Sous Le Ciel De Paris" ,but without that director's talent and intellect.

Brain transplant surgery, 21 July 2014

One of the big men of the famous (or notorious,depending on whom you ask) Cahiers Du Cinéma ,Jacques Doniol -Valcroze was less successful when it came to making his own movies:with hindsight ,two of his seven movies really stand out :"La Maison Des Bories" ,an intimate psychological drama(often depicted as"La Princesse De Clèves in Provence" and this one ,a rare French attempt at a sci-fi work.Wunderkind Matthieu Carrière starred in both movies.

A terminally-ill professor (Aumont) asks his colleague(Duchaussoy) to perform a brain transplant,by giving his organ to a young man ,severely wounded in a car crash.Against all odds,the operation succeeds :the professor looks now like a young man ,but he is married to attractive Helena (Nicoletta Macchiavelli)and his own daughter falls in love with him!Freudian isn't it? Do not expect horror scenes,gore ,and monsters:like Doniol-Valcroze's precedent effort,it is a psychological drama ,with philosophical concerns:who am I ,now?

Get back to Bagdad,Scheherazade!, 20 July 2014

797....Charlemagne and Haroun Al Rachid are the most powerful sovereigns of the world ;both strengthen their authority through Christianity and Islam respectively.

Haroun Al Rachid's reign was flourishing ,he protected the arts and the famous "One Thousand and one nights " bears witness of the brilliant literature of the era.

Charlemagne formed political contacts with his oriental equivalent who sent him an embassy and presents including a clepsydra;The Western Europe master wanted the Muslim caliph to protect the Christian monasteries and to let the pilgrims go and pray on Christ's tomb.

That's when our story begins:three gallant knights,Renaud (Gerard Barray ) ,Didier (Giuliano Gemma) and Thierry (Gil Vidal) arrive in Bagdad to ask for religious tolerance ;the caliph will later agree,and it's the only historical fact in a two-hour movie.

On Their way to Bagdad,they come to a damsel in distress 's rescue (Karina)and take her to the caliph who must choose his wife .Karina is Schéhérazade (check the title) ,but not the beautiful lady whose tales used to keep the sultan awake for one and thousand nights ;it was the movie which was supposed to thrust straight-faced Karina into the mainstream ,and it does ,in a way,for after watching this far-fetched tale,you will not need some aspirin ,as it is often the case with her then-partner Jean-Luc's works.

The first part is relatively coherent ,with two or three good moments :the three tests ,the beautiful woman handed over to a bunch of ugly dirty beggars ,and the village where nobody wants to cure the valiant knight and repeats "Bagdad".

The second part is a horse of a different color: a sprawling development,with a harem where absolutely anyone can just walk in (it is reportedly said that Haround had 200 wives!) ,a hateful Egyptian(?) rival (Marilu Tolo),and her accomplice who wants to be top dog.The escape across the desert Under a blistering sun shows the influence of HGClouzot's "Manon" ;the director even has Barray scream 'now she's mine,you Haroun,can't you hear me? aping Michel Auclair.

History is really given a rough ride,but it is entertaining on a rainy day ;today,the movie has Fallen into oblivion,being ignored by everybody.

NB :Pierre Gaspard -Huit took Barray again,after "Le Capitaine Fracasse" ,in which he played the villain opposite Jean Marais.

Never wake a sleepwalker, 20 July 2014

If you want to watch this movie,do not read Guy Bellinger's storyline on main page:it spoils the excellent ending ,the unexpected twist of a movie which is far from excellent;some scenes are funny but the screenplay is repetitive ,and in spite of the reliable principal ,too much sleepwalking becomes a bit irritating all in all.And ,as far as the viewer is concerned ,it stands in danger of contaminating him.

The best scenes are not in the main plot:Andrex and his gang of two-bit hoodlums do not really stand out.One can prefer:

-the beginning with the feeding bottle which,in a way,reveals Boniface's intimate longing;then the shoplifter and his three hands;the manager who wants to shake hands with his insightful private eye .

-Boniface ,sleepwalking,winds up in.....Louis De Funès's and wife's bed ,a scene fans of the two actors might not want to miss.

-And the final scene (see above):and they all lived happily ever after.Or should I say "almost happily"!


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