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Troubled indemnity, 29 January 2015

Gilles Grangier's forte ,in the fifties,was the thriller;this musical finds him on foreign territory .

Another vehicle for heartthrob singer Georges Guétary who sings less than usually ,but barks,mews,moos,chirps and imitates motors and other sound effects .And a trio of black singers (the Peter sisters ) and a violinist take to the stage instead of him.

The beginning of the plot bears some resemblance with Jules Verne's "Tribulations D'Un Chinois En Chine" (which Philippe De Broca transferred to the screen with Jean-Paul Belmondo in 1965):A suicidal South American took out huge life assurance and the insurance company frets over the future;one of their employees (Guétary) and an executive's niece (Gaby Sylvia) are sent to what's the insured person is up to.

In fact ,the plot is very derivative ;some good moments are to be found in the second part when Guétary's character ,who does not speak English at all, is led up the garden path by his colleague.

Vendetta, 27 January 2015

"Adhemai" is pleasant spoof on the Corsican Vendetta ;Noel-Noel is not unlike Bourvil:he plays the naive peasant who's never got a clue what's happening around him.

Ademai is very happy to spend a vacation month in Corsica,invited by his family ;when he arrives,much to his surprise,all the male relatives have just been shot :only Angelico,a very old man,survives .So what is he expected to do about it? Revenge ,on this paradisaic island, is a dish best eaten hot,and it's his turn.Fortunately,his "ennemy" is none other than a friend from his army days;and the police sergeant is none other than their former warrant officer.To make the matters worse,the two pals are in love with Ademai's cousin Fortunata.

This is Gilles Grangier's first effort;this director was despised by the highbrows,but his thrillers from the fifties need reassessment.

Escapist cinema,at a time the French were not smiling.

When a child is born: December 24th,1940., 26 January 2015

Jean¨-Paulin broached many genres : militarist works (Trois De saint-Cyr),adventures tingled with eroticism ("L'Esclave Blanc" in which a native appeared topless in 1936,historical tale ("Echec Au Roy" ) ,fantasy and horror ("L'Homme Qui Vendit Son Ame Au Diable").

During the fist days of the Occupation,Maréchal Pétain suggested a movie were made in aid of the Secours national; as the cast and credits read,they all heed the call:"the greatest actors of the French cinema are here":actually only a handful of these actors (Vanel,Fernandel,Madeleine Robinson,Charpin....) are still remembered today;none of them received any fee.

This is a re-telling of the story of the nativity ,set in Provences ,in the present time -in their last conversation,Vanel and Fernandel hint at the hard times to come :"we need to use our good side,our finer feelings,we need to all stand together" .

A couple of refugees arrives in a village:he is a cabinet maker ,she's pregnant and the innkeeper refuses to give them a room;they wind up in the cowshed of a farm where she has her baby ,the very night of Christmas ,complete with canticles and even three travelers who play the Magi .

Although this is not a movie some French people do not remember proudly,it retains a pristine charm even today.

Probably inspired by Alphonse Daudet's short stories,the screenwriters intersperses their story with Provençal Legends (those of the blacksmith and of the donkey fit well in the plot);the depiction of the Provençal evening gathering,with its log and its Fougasse (sort of brioche)does not lack the human touch.

"Cinema De Vichy" ,that's for sure,but if you are interested in the past of the French cinema,you should watch it.

NB : although it was postponed till December 1948 in Paris ,its premiere did take place in Vichy in December 1940 ,the 24th.

This chocolate mousse is not a gourmet dish., 25 January 2015

In the early thirties,many French movies were filmed plays ;such is the case with "La Petite Chocolatière" .

It has not worn well;the main female character ,a spoiled rich girl,is almost unbearable and her reluctant suitor the young civil servant is not much better: Pierre Bertin 's acting is wooden.The only reason to Watch these light-hearted gallantries is Raimu ,but it's not one of his best parts,by a long shot;also interesting is the presence ,in a supporting role,of Simone Simon,the future star of Renoir's "La Bete Humaine" and of Jacques Tourneur's "cat people".

One can save a funny scene :the father of the Young man's first fiancée,coming into the boy's country house and discovering two girls ,quickly says to his daughter:" do not enter this place,dearest,there's a lovely landscape outside".

Remade in 1949,by André Berthomieu.

Germans do not drink whiskey, 25 January 2015

A short historical comment tells us ,that before the Operation Torch in November 1942 ,many persons sacrificed their life....

Secret agents are given a dangerous mission in Tanger: to pass on important documents to London.Two men have already been killed .

The last victim was Georges Masse's friend;Georges is a bon vivant,a journalist fond of whiskey and women ,and not at all concerned about his native country's plight and about the allies' fight;but overnight the loss of his friend makes him change his mind,although he remains laid-back and offhand .

The movie flirts with pastiche but never fully gives in to it;Raymond Rouleau is well cast as a heart-breaker ,some kind of forerunner of James Bond (Sean Connery's Bond ,of course!),with plenty of go and humor.The lines written by Audiard often turns the screenplay to comedy ,but not entirely:it was 1949,and a movie involving resistant fighters had to be (at least partly) serious.

The first thirty minutes contain lots of filler :cabaret songs ("Je Suis Seule Ce Soir"),interminable dancing and even tap-dancing .But Louis De Funès's appearance ,as a Spanish general,makes up for it.

As for the director,André Hunebelle ,it was some kind of blueprint for his spy thrillers of the sixties featuring French James Bond OSS 117;

....But my hand was made strong by the hand of the Allmighty, 24 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In Leo Joannon's filmography,"L'Emigrante " set a pattern for his movies "of redemption" of the fifties,the likes of "Le Défroqué" ,"Le Désert De Pigalle" or "Le Secret De Sœur Angèle ":life of sin, and before death strikes ,back on the straight and narrow and presto!the sinner becomes a saint.

For an actress such as Edwige Feuillère ,it's a far cry from Max Ophuls !She portrays a woman who loves jewels and is a gangster's lover.When he takes her precious necklace ,she gives him away to the police .

Fearing his vengeance,she sails away to South Africa ,where many emigrants intend to work in the mines there.

A lot of scenes are so extravagant they make the movie,like the works I mention above ,quite entertaining: -the heroine ,seducing men ,first a poor unlucky human wreck (Pierre Larquey,an excellent actor who overplays in all his scenes ) ,then a handsome lieutenant(Jean Chevrier) on the boat who is demoted when the captain discovers she shares his cabin.

-the dormitories the emigrants pack into,their good camaraderie,in direct contrast with the luxury dining-room where the heroine eats her lunch alone (yes ,it's "titanic" in miniature,without a wreck) -the wicked disabled Asiatic girl (isn't it a racist touch?),who informs the captain.

-the emigrants' rebellion,when they learn they are not the welcome in their new country and that they have to get back where they once belong.

-the heroine realizing that the handsome sailor sacrificed his career for her sake,and that she threw it all away ,that is to say the true love of a good man.

-her grand gesture ,her sacrifice,her salvation:"I'll will be with you all along your life till we meet again (in Heaven)"

Hunting season., 20 January 2015

Willy Rozier is not much of a director,but it does not matter here cause Feydeau's play is ,as usual ,irresistible.

This is filmed Théâtre De Boulevard (light comedies performed in the theaters of the Paris Boulevards);and you get what you expect: husband,wives ,lovers,cuckolds,mistaken identities,you name it .

The title "Monsieur Chasse " (=the Master is hunting) may have here different meanings depending on the person you are talking to,but definitely not hunting rabbits or hares .

Paul Meurisse is wonderful as the poet doctor in love with a woman who does not want to cheat on her husband as long as he is faithful.He tells the virtuous wife hunting may not be what she's thinking of;besides her hubby uses his book of poems as a table wedge !

A very modern ending ,showing that Rozier was able to think "cinema" when he was filming theater.

(Human) wreck, 20 January 2015

Like in English "Epave " has two meanings in French:that of a ship and a man who has become one of the last,lonely and wretched .The two meanings apply to the movie.

The precedent user sums up the movie in admirable succinct style and also reviews it enthusiastically.

The French critics ,however ,do not speak highly of Willy Rozier and a cursory look at his filmography does not tend toward indulgence.Most of his movies are dreadful melodramas (just Watch " Le Bagnard" ).

That said,I don't want to hurt Max's feelings ,for I know that he is a true connoisseur of the French cinema and that "L'Epave" is certainly the most satisfying effort of -to put it mildly- an uneven production.

The Office Catholique Du Cinema forbade the movie to their flock,because of a daring advertising -think of the poster of "the outcast" starring Jane Russel-,and a too sensual actress, Françoise Arnoul.

Along Martine Carol,she was the sexiest actress of the Pre-Bardot French cinema.And the fact that she showed (very furtively) one breast and a plunging negligé only made the matters worse (1949!).It was her true debut,for she had only a small part in Becker's masterpiece "Rendez-Vous De Juillet";her Partner,Robert Le Gall,was an ersatz Jean Gabin -when he get's angry with the bitch who walked out on him,his playing strongly recalls Gabin's fit of anger in "Le Jour Se Lève".

The first part of the movie is weak indeed:the songs are filler ,and an interminable free-for -all drags on;but things get better afterward ;there are several scuba diving scenes and they are quite good for the time.The hero's frame of minds are sometimes ponderous and redundant (the voice -over tells us "he began to work" ;then one of the sailors says :"that's it!he begins to work") But the last voice-over,at the very end of the movie reaches some kind of poetry ,recalling sometimes Prévert's lines in "Jenny" (Carné,1936). And this ending is really strong ,one of the best in the melodrama genre,and I wish all the movie had been on the same level.

Like this? Try these....

"Le Port Du Désir" Edmond T. Greville ,1952.

"Vulcano" William Dieterle,1949.

"Hans Le Marin" François Villiers ,1948.

Fed up!, 19 January 2015

"Ce Soir On Tue" (=tonight,killing!) has two alternate titles :"Y'En A Marre" (=fed up!)and "Le Gars D'Anvers" (=the guy from Antwerp) Yvan Govar made two offbeat intriguing works :"Un Soir Par Hasard" and "Deux Heures A Tuer" ,the latter in real time ,à la "the set up";the rest is indifferent thrillers ("Le Toubib Medecin Du Gang" "Le Circuit De Minuit")

In spite of its three titles,this movie has absolutely nothing to offer:a run of the mill story of drug traffickers,a spate of clichés :big chief,violent scuffles,Russian roulette,and a list (of members of an organization,who cares?) Too bad for the actors whose characters lack any depth.René Dary ,who began his career in the silent era as a child actor for Louis Feuillade ,is a miscast as the evil boss,being better at comedy;Pierre Trabaud was not lucky in the movies ,and is only remembered as the student in Becker's "Rendez -Vous De Juillet" and the schoolteacher in Yves Robert's "La Guerre Des Boutons":he 's not very credible as an Interpol agent .Jess Hahn plays his colleague. (this is the only modernity of the movie: TWO cops) Although the film was shot on location in Antwerp,the director does not take advantage of the murky atmosphere of the harbor.He did a better job with the railway station in "Deux Heures A Tuer".

"Y'En A Marre" is also a rather lugubrious song,performed by a Chanteuse in the nightclub.

The discreet charm of a young bourgeois., 18 January 2015

A movie which is forgotten in its native France but seems to enjoy a small cult abroad,notably in Japan.

Let's be straight about it:"psychological drama" is too good an expression to depict this Harlequin romance :it's actually the umpteenth story of the young lad who thinks he will live a Grand Amour with a seasoned woman,and who,after sufferings (so to speak) ,has learned to be a man and to become responsible ;some did it well before it,and did it much better ("LE Diable Au Cœur" " Le Blé En Herbe"(Autant-Lara).As would do Mauro Bolognini in "Un Bellissimo Novembre" in 1969.

The soft eroticism today would not even be rated PG12 (when the movie was released it got a NC-18,which urged the teenagers to see it ).

When I write "sufferings" ,well....Olivier belongs to the high bourgeoisie and is truly a spoilt rich kid: the movie made certainly most of the French sixties audience drool,and not only for Nathalie Delon 's perfect body -furtive nudity-: luxury apartment,his own TV set -which was extremely rare in 1968-,winter sports in Avoriaz ,one of the swankiest ski resorts,in a four-star hotel -a sign reads (twice):"Hotel Des Dromonts ****-.So it must have been hard ,for the average teenager of the era ,to relate to this way of life and to feel sympathy for his heartache .

This aspect of the movie is interesting,because it shows the upper classes in a way diametrically opposite to that of Claude Chabrol.One should also notice that although the movie was made in the very year of 1968,all these students are non political:Olivier's mates talk about a meeting in high school " Louis Le Grand" but the subject remains very vague ;only Delon's character seems to indicate that something has changed in the Wake of woman's lib,but the ending leaves no hope: back in Robert Hossein's (why did this talented actor get involved in that business?-arms ,she will soon become a housewife and a socialite (ain't her daddy a consul?).

The score by Francis Lai is syrupy and accentuates the mawkishness of the screenplay.

About the actors: Renaud Verley (b.1945) was Bernard Verley's brother;after several indifferent movies -including the abysmal hippie movie "Chemins De Kathmandu" -he was finally cast in a masterpiece :" "La Caduti Dei Degli" by Visconti ,but first -class actors such as Dirk Bogarde ,Ingrid Thulin and Helmut Berger drowned him out;he has never found a great part since.

Bernard Le Coq (b.1950),less cute than Verley,serves as a foil to him in Boisrond's movie;but he enjoyed a more successful career than his co-star ,mainly in TV works.

Like this ? try this......

"La Liberte En Croupe" : Boisrond jumps on the bandwagon and cowardly treats the events of May 68 ;feat. Bernard Le Coq as the lead ,this time.

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