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I've gotta get out of a dump like this!, 17 April 2015

Ten years before ,"Le Banquet Des Fraudeurs " dealt with a similar subject.

Back to the fifties "The European Union is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbors, which culminated in the Second World War. As of 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community begins to unite European countries economically and politically in order to secure lasting peace. The six founders are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands." At the end of this early sixties movie,a gendarme hints at the European Union and at the fact that there won't be any borders pretty soon.

Although it is about smugglers,"Filles De Fraudeurs" is close to melodrama nay fairytale.These dishonest men hide their stuff in old Mazier's café in which it is written in capital letters:"this domicile is inviolable.

Mr Mazier's first wife died and left him with a virtuous girl ,Francine;alas,he married again ,with a shrew who treats her stepdaughter like Cinderella ;besides she had herself a daughter, a perverse unscrupulous venal bitch (Betty Beckers whose playing was strongly influenced by those of Ginette Leclerc and Vivianne Romance) ;all she wants is to get out of this seedy place and head for the broader horizons of Paris where they made chic shoes .Fortunately for Francine,like Snowwhite ,one day ,her prince came :these naive smugglers mistook him for one of their "colleagues" ,but 1) he is handsome 2) he is smiling and nice 3) he is dressed up to the nines 4) he takes Francine-Cosette to the fair .When his real role is revealed at the end of the movie,your belief needs to be suspended :he was featured in the screenplay to assure a happy end .

The corn is green, 16 April 2015

Light-hearted gallantries in the green landscapes of Avallonnais;as usual,this Jean Gourguet's effort was filmed on location,with his favorite Young actor Maurice Sarfati (see also " Maternité clandestine" " La P......Sentimentale");who,once again,in spite of his youthful looks ,is obviously too old (24) for the part of a teenager who just failed his high school diploma .

Inspired by Colette's "Le Blé En Herbe " and the eponymous movie by Claude Autant-Lara which was released the year before,Gourguet lets a Young teenage girl tell the tale of her first love :she falls for Kiki but he has an affair with the woman who accompanies the teacher he has private lessons with.

This is bland and predates what Eric Rohmer will do later ,in a much more intellectual (and IMHO) boring way.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
strangler on a train, 16 April 2015

IMHO,an improvement on Georges Pollock's version ("murder she said" ,1962)starring Margaret Rutherford.The place where the desirable mansion is located is called "Rutherford" ,perhaps a tribute to McEwan 's predecessor.

Directing is much less static than Pollock's ,and the two trains belting in the dark and blue night is an exciting scene;the final scene is a very good idea as Miss Marple summons her suspects on the same train .

it's too bad Jenny Agutter had to die in the very first sequence;Geraldine Ewan ,Ben Daniels and David Warner are the stand-outs of a stellar cast ;the screenwriter succeeds in making numerous characters interesting ,which is the main difficulty is Mrs Christie's brilliant murder mysteries.

Pasteur (1935)
A beautiful mind, 16 April 2015

If we do not count "Ceux De Chez Nous" a documentary he made in ...1915,"Pasteur" can be considered Guitry's first effort.

You cannot compare it to William Dieterle's "the story of Louis Pasteur,because it's boiled down to four or five moments in the scientist's life and it only lasts about 70 min.

Guitry's touch is already present,in the cast and credits "written" in the past historic -which today is quite relevant- ,in the first sequence in which the director/actor presents the great man,displaying his drawings .Guitry portrays Louis Pasteur himself,and we can already feel his genius:all that remains to be added is his incredible wit and sense of humor.The tone is really solemn in the conclusion ,and the scenes with Joseph ,the Young Shepherd he cured when a rabid dog bit his leg-today ,the scientists and the historians are more doubtful as to this vaccine-.The scenes with Joseph are close to hagiography ,but Guitry wins over his audience ,as he wins over his colleagues in the first scenes .The final words express hope that some day science and peace will walk hand in hand much to humanity's happiness.

Revenge?What revenge?, 14 April 2015

Now outstripped by Arsène Lupin,Rocambole was an adventurer whose adventures were so popular it gave to the French language a new adjective:Rocambolesque(=incredible).Ponson Du Terrail,his creator ,belongs to the serialized novels writers such as Eugène Sue (whose "mysteries of Paris" Baroncelli transferred to the screen too) or Adolphe D'Ennery (whose "les Deux Orphelines "was transferred to the screen by DW Griffith as "orphans in the storm").

It is a sequel to "Rocambole" (1948)and there's nothing new under the sun:identity usurpation,a subject which Maurice Leblanc (Arsène Lupin) and later Patricia Highsmith (Ripley) would dramatically improve,chastised innocents,secret passages...which lead to real dungeons where two characters (Venture and his mate) are abandoned to their sad fate :and if it is not clear enough,they find a skeleton in their prison.Brrr!

Rocambole,true to form, passes himself off as a count's heir whereas the unfortunate true aristocrat is sent to a chain gang.His worst enemy ,Baccarat, tries to thwart his ominous plans;both use incredible ways to achieve their ends ,and ,all in all ,one wonders whether love is not stronger than hate .

Pierre Brasseur ,who did not take the screenplay seriously,gives a tongue- in- cheek performance: cynical,smooth,sometimes cruel,artful,he is the main reason why you would watch this stuff ,which is nothing but the talkie Louis Feuillade would have made.

It was to be De Baroncelli's swansong:he died in 1951.

The Body (2012)
Spain rules, 14 April 2015

In the fifties,in Europa , France used to rule over the thriller.No Longer so.Spain has been releasing great thrillers for almost two decades now whereas my native land lost the good recipes a long time ago.

Why do I mention France?Because I think that ,much more than any Hitchcock's masterpieces ,"El Cuerpo" reminds me of Henri-Georges Clouzot's classic "Les Diaboliques" (1955),currently in IMDb top 250.

A woman killed by diabolical lovers ,a woman whose body disappears and thus might or might not be dead;the assassin's growing terror;the wealthy wife's wickedness -Clouzot's characters are often pure evil-and the murky atmosphere ,the morgue,the disturbing corridors of a police station,the gruesome details;and like in Clouzot's (or Hitchcock's) works,a firm screenplay which does not fall apart in the first third,and grabs you till the final unexpected twist, as brilliant as that of "Les Diaboliques" and which justifies the first pictures which may puzzle the viewer.

The hero is like a puppet- but who pulls the strings?- ,a brilliant chemistry professor but a weak little boy under a matronly wife.Her appearances in flashbacks (or in sequences in which the husband is seeing things?) gives the jitter .Like in Clouzot's film,the victim is more disturbing than his/her killers.

A tense suspense which thrillers buffs must not miss!

Truth and fiction, 13 April 2015

"La Famille Duraton " was a comic radio broadcast ,which began in 1937 ,when TV sitcoms did not exist,for a good reason;it continued through the following decades,and finally called it a day in 1966!It spawned two French movies ("La Famille Duraton" 1939 and this movie) and yes! one American one,"True to life" ,directed by George Marshall in 1943 starring Franchot Tone.

The broadcast has been running for ten years before a small town is at last able to pick up the programme :sadly, for the senior high school principal,he called himself Duraton,and ,overnight ,he becomes,he and his family the laughingstock of the town:his students laugh at their headmaster,his son loses his fiancée (not a serious loss,for the parents ,the count and countess Kerfelus are snobs) and his wife (the irresistible Jeanne Sourza) is ridiculed in every shop she visits. On the verge of a nervous breakdown ,after a chief education officer's visit,the unfortunate teacher decides to sue Radiomonde which broadcasts the sitcom.

During the trial,they meet one of the actors of the programme (the excellent Jean Carmet) who makes friend with the real Duraton boy;thus the line between truth and fiction is rather tenuous .

This is by no means a masterpiece,by a long shot,but the lines are sometimes funny if pretty low- brow :there is a welcome madness which continues in the court scenes,when the two lawyers do not do what their clients are expecting from them.The solemn ending ,however,full of finer feelings ,is a bit stodgy ,but the hero enlivens things a little with his interminable speech.

And its moral has a contemporary feel:even today ,real people are compared to less-than-attractive fiction heroes ,mainly when they bear their names.

NB :some of the actors were featured in the radio programme and in the movie.

Bringing up baby (and big babies), 12 April 2015

Jean Gourguet used to introduce himself as a "modest craftsman" ;the critics were hard on him .For sure,some of his movies would need reassessment:"Malaria" created a strange stifling atmosphere ,probably influenced by that of Wyler' 's 'the letter" ,but in my book ,his towering achievement remains " Son Dernier role" ,the last days of a terminally-ill actress which did not sink into pathos and tear-jerker melodrama.

Whereas movies such as "La p..... Sentimentale " remains,even with hindsight -mainly with hindsight- dreadful stuff ," Maternité Clandestine" ,which was reportedly a commercial success,still displays some charm.First of all,this is par excellence the screenplay which the Vichy government would approve of ,without a moment's hesitation: a pack of bad boys,under a gangster's thumb,a la Oliver Twist ,save a pregnant young girl who tries to commit suicide .With one exception (La Fouine ,played by future director Jean-Pierre Mocky ,they redeem themselves :they help the Young mom to have her child,they take care of him,they even try to meet the infamous rich kid who got her pregnant-she was a farm girl in his valuable property-.When the evil gangster (and pimp) wants her to become a hooker and even worse (veiled hints at white slave trade).The conclusion could not be more Petainist : "no more crookedness,no I'm a father and I want my wife and my son to be proud of me" says the adoptive father.

Often filmed on location ,the movie features young actors,some of whom (Cauchy ,Mocky ,Dany Carrel) would have a future in the movies and older highly talented ones ,who were often supporting in classics: Pierre Larquey,Noel Roquevert and Jeanne Marken ,in a delightful part of a hard of hearing good-hearted auntie .

For Gourguet 's movie is not devoid of humor :there also a very funny scene showing the former hoodlums looking for " Accouchement" (=delivery ) in a medical encyclopedia ,and reading lines about childbirth in the antiquity.

Caroline ,no, 11 April 2015

"Caroline Chérie " was a blockbuster in the early fifties ;it put Martine Carol on the map;despised by the highbrows,it is nonetheless a very entertaining movie by Richard Pottier ,with plenty of fine lines written by Jean Anouilh;it was so successful that it spawned two sequels ,the second of which did not even feature Martine Carol.

So why a remake ? Probably because the producers wanted to capitalize on the success of the "Angelique Marquise Des Anges " saga ,which was a colossal success in the mid-sixties.

Let's put it straight:this remake was a fiasco,artistically and commercially.The star ,France Anglade ,was another BB clone trying to imitate Michèle "Angélique" Mercier ,but in the whole movie ,she remains a bimbo ,always overtaken by events .

Unlike the 1950 work ,it was filmed in Franscope ("on a giant screen " claimed the theaters at the time) and Eastmancolor ,but directing is poor,thin and mean and lacking in real positive energy and wit.The screenplay is botched :the original version had a running time of 140 min,its remake is boiled down to 96 min.The episodes do not make it as a whole,and because the censorship was more indulgent in the late sixties, they have all the same purpose :to see Caroline give in to male desire:there is some very furtive nudity ,and a little harpsichord tune is heard every time the heroine,willy-nilly,makes love. The supporting actors ,all superior to the star of the movie,seem to put on their usual little act before collecting their money.However Françoise Christophe is as impressive as Germaine Kerjean ,in the unsympathetic part of La Chabanne;Karin Dor is more attractive than Anglade and why Gaston chooses to save Caroline is a mystery in that context;not only Charles Aznavour appears ,cast against type,as the randy postilion,but he also writes the fine song which is heard during the cast and credits at the end of the movie :his usual collaborator Georges Gavarentz ,wrote the tune as well as the film score.

In short: Richard Pottier's Caroline:yes!Denys De La Patellière's :no!

Bordeaux vintage 1952, 10 April 2015

Emile Couzinet was the owner of several movie theaters in the south west of France(Bordeaux) ..He had an idea which was (and to this day has remained) unique:he made his own movies which were shown in his theaters .He did not give a damn about what Parisian critics thought.The only man of the French cinema who was a writer,a director,a producer ,a film distributor, a cinema owner and manager;he had his own studios and ,like Ed Wood in America ,he often used the same actors ,particularly Jean Tissier and Jeanne Fusier-Gir .

Fusier-Gir is one of the principals in "Le Curé De Saint-Amour" (= the parish priest from Saint-Amour").If you're going to appreciate this comedy,don't take it literally : Couzinet's movies are often thought as the nadir of the whole French cinema ,a guilty pleasure for the best (so to speak) of them.

A marchioness wants to marry her niece with a baron;but on the very day of her wedding,the bride escapes with her true love,a commoner.The parish priest helps them ,provided that they sleep apart of course ;but the noble lady learns the truth and ,as she does not want to give her consent,they pretend they have a child ;all people around want to help them,and finally they are given three babies to play the part of the would be fruit of their sin .Even the bishop,who is the marchioness's cousin come to the rescue.

And the best is yet to come: as in other Couzinet's "works " Fusier-Gir" plays an old maid who finds love (here with a cop).Fusier-Gir used to play Racine' s "Les Plaideurs" on stage too,mind you.

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