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The road to India, 30 June 2015

Released the same year as "lives of a Bengal Lancer" ,"La Route Imperiale" has not the same assets :it is totally devoid of humor and of poetry,and Pierre-Richard Willm ,though very handsome ,is no match for Gary Cooper or Franchot Tone .Both movies are hymns in praise of English colonialism,both feature a strict but fair colonel,both feature a treason (PR Willms should not have trust an enemy's friendship,Richard Cromwell could not stand torture,both have mitigating circumstances),both feature heroic redemption.

Unlike Hathaway's work ,which features a secondary female character,"La Route Impériale " is a military melodrama -and thus predates L'Herbier 's contemporary works such as "Veille D'Armes" and "La Porte Du Large" (all were made in 1935,L'Herbier was prolific!)-:the colonel's wife,lady Stark is none other than the hero's former passionate lover;if Willm shows a tendency to overact -and is nevertheless credible as a dashing officer all the same-,the actress is totally bland and listless and it takes a lot of imagination to believe that this woman is eaten with desire and passion.

This is an uneven exotic adventures movie:the death of the young sergeant and the funeral vigil ,as well as the card game where the officers are represented by jacks (and not Kings,that's reserved for colonels) are stand out scenes ;the final attack is well directed . And the final pictures ,though colonialist to the core ,are almost as moving as those of Hathaway's .

This tribute to British heroism may be a forerunner of the propaganda movie made in 1939 by L'Herbier :"Entente Cordiale".

Cannery road, 28 June 2015

Based on an operetta by Vincent Scotto ,and operetta singer Marcel Merkès ' s debut on the silver screen ,"Trois De La Canebière" is primarily a musical ,in which they sing every ten minutes :the best moment,cinematographically is the "sightseeing tour " of Marseille filmed on location,with a fine medley of songs including the pleasant sailor tune "Le Plancher Des Vaches" (=the dry land).

The screenplay involves two fishermen,in love with two florist assistants:in order to impress them,they pass themselves off as wealthy industrials ,sardines cannery millionaires ;as the girls do not want to be outdone by them,they claim to be movie stars .

A Young Michel Galabru is cast as their mate ,"Pénible" (= tiresome ,though he is not so),dressed as a woman in the second half ,to fool a jealous rival .Anne -Marie Peysson (later a radio and TV announcer) appears briefly.

Sisters (2013)
Living in the spiritual world., 27 June 2015

I was expecting much from this movie:the subject,for a change ,gets off the beaten track:a nun is to take her vows and her family has come to say her goodbye before she leaves the material world.

A subject which was nothing but derivative,but as for the treatment.... A family made of cardboard characters ,who overplay,the mother who mistakes sugar for salt,a hysterical arty sister who does not find her way in life,the future sister's former lover ,a long-haired stupefied neo-hippie,the uncle who is afraid of cows(or is it a bull?),the naughty children ,and the guinea-pigs to boot. What's downright embarrassing is the complete lack of a spiritual dimension ;a gratuitous scene in slow motion (the little girl falling down from a tree)and a prologue dealing with the bees (and the grandma gets back to the point with her granddaughter ,telling her they are endangered species and it will be a tragedy for the earth )....Well certainly so,but the connection with monastic life escapes me,I fear...

Icing on this stodgy cake -as indigestible as mom's-: the final scenes with the three girls taking their vows:one can understand,for sure,why Marie wants to become a nun:this family is really a nuisance to live with at home!

Private Fernandel, 26 June 2015

The "Comique Troupier" (coarse comedy) in all it splendor...or in all its horror ,depending on whom you ask.The stories of privates doing their military service were then very popular and they enjoyed a deplorable "revival" in the seventies ,which spawned the Charlots movies,the nadir of that era.

Based on Georges Courteline's novel ,it seems terribly old-fashioned today;all the scenes in the barracks are comic clichés ,always revolving around punishments and the way to avoid them.In consequence,the scenes which take place outside the barracks are more successful :Fernandel and his mate have to pick up horses but they take the wrong train and they wind up in a one-horse town where they hope to find a brothel:it is moderately funny ,but Courteline is not Maupassant and don't expect "La Maison Tellier" or "Une Soirée".

More "private Fernandel" stuff:

-"Les Gaietés De L'Escadron" (Tourneur,1932)

-"Le Coq Du Régiment" (Cammage,1933)

-"Ignace " (Colombier,1937) etc

Always pay attention to a headmaster's piece of advice, 26 June 2015

"I Figli Ai Nessuno" "Tormento" "Angelo Bianco" ...You do not change a winning team;so here they are again: Yvonne Sanson and Amadeo Nazarri ,directed by Rafaello Matarazzo.

Movie buffs do not go much for melodrama,except for Douglas Sirk,and in this case,they hail it as a miracle .However,there is not a gulf between the Italian artist and Detlef Sierck.People will laugh at the captain ,operating on the kid,with a little help from his crew ("you are all fathers aren't you?")....guided by a true doctor radio ;if you are honest such a work as "magnificent obsession" has more implausibilities than "Malinconico Autunno".

Personally ,I consider Matarazzo the Italian Sirk.

The fifties were a hard time for unwed moms (check the headmaster's luminous remark);Luca idealizes the father he has never known ;he is a punching bag for his school mates who have strong dads who provide them with protection ;so when a captain ( in full regalia) comes to his rescue ,his dream comes true.People will say Matarazzo is not an "auteur" but the father's theme is recurrent in his filmography:in "Figlio Ai Nessuno" ,he even denies his audience a happy end.Unlike Spanish stuff such as Joselito Jimenez's weepies ,he does not bore his viewer stiff with religion ,millionaire fathers and waifs who find their place back in the high society .

There's an excellent chemistry between Amadeo Nazarri and his Young co-star and they almost out-shadow the female star,which is not so common in melodrama .(see also "Figlio Ai Nessuno")

And look at the last pictures:even the tormented dog has its day!

Fun is the one thing that money can't buy., 24 June 2015

Monsieur Fluch,a minor public official wins one million on the national lottery.He buys mountains of things ,cars ,a medieval castle (to a marquis ,the eternal story of the ruined aristocrat who sells his mansion to the Nouveau Riche ) and shares ,encouraged by self-interested people who fawn on him (a good line about the folk song "Le Temps Des Cerises";in parallel romance between the new millionaire's daughter and a modest salesman.

Another tale which tells that money can't but happiness,as anyone past infancy should know.

Generally,in this kind of story ,the lottery ticket is lost and it's a treasure hunt (see Clair's "Le Million" and Becker's "Antoine et Antoinette").The Belgian movie focuses on the spendthrift side of the new millionaires

The King (1936)
The king and us, 22 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Based on a successful play ,"Le Roi" has funny moments and boasts a dream of a cast :Victor Francen,Raimu,Gaby Morlay ,Elvire Popesco.....

One of its subject is familiar in the thirties and forties: the nouveau Riche,who's got the money and the old aristocrat ,who's got the ancestors :see also "Le Maître De Forges" ,"Les Nouveaux Riches " "Le Bal' and the masterpiece of the genre " Les Affaires Sont Les Affaires".

The Nouveau Riche (Raimu) would do anything to pull the rug out from Under the marquis's ground:he did not want his daughter to marry his son,a commoner ('"it's unthinkable!) ,so he will take his revenge on him by stealing his lover and by entertaining his majesty the king of imaginary Cerdagne Jean The First .As his family is not used to move in the aristocrat world ,we have hilarious scenes à la "Madame Sans-Gene":the message in cipher Raimu uses to welcome his guests,his missus' problems with the refined language ,his daughter's doggerel..

But the movie has a contemporary feel too: the wealthy man is a democrat ,on the people's side ,he even passes for Red ,a true lesson in demagogy:the leftist politician welcomes a king,a bishop and colleagues who do not give a damn about the people's fate.And to console him for his misfortune (his wife sleeps with the king) ,he's appointed secretary of Commerce ,a measure which should benefit both France and Cerdagne.

Death of a chamber maid, 21 June 2015

It could be another husbands/wives/lovers routine comedy ;it's the first impression ,but as anyone knows,never trust your first one:the further acquaintance says this: another important Italian satire,in which comedy walks hand in hand with tragedy,another portrait of Roma bourgeoisie vitriolic style;and the most cynical character is not even a bourgeois:he is a handsome gigolo who blackmails his lovers "after he took everything he could steal";his philosophy he explains to his friend in the car takes boorishness to new limits.His depiction of the posh party (and the guests!) is arguably the peak of the movie.

In this world,which recalls sometimes recalls Luis Bunuel (but humor is almost absent) and Claude Chabrol ,how can an innocent girl survive?Anna Maria Ferrero as Cesarina is no match for those wealthy VIP,stinking money.Those cowards do not want to compromise themselves ,their selfishness (and their fear of scandal)knows no bound. The ending may seem debatable ,but Liliana realizes that one brave individual struggling the authorities (who more or less side with the rich)can't hope to win.In later works such as "Guardie E Ladri",Mario Monicelli dismisses policemen and thieves without pronouncing in favor of either.

NB:although at the top of the bill,Gina Lollobrigida actually supports ;Marina Vlady (spelled Wladi) ,15 (!) at the time,portrays the industrial's lover.

Nobody knows this is nowhere., 19 June 2015

When I entered this movie ,I was expecting a routine horror movie,with a serial killer ,or some monster ( gentle beasts such as vampires,wolves,werewolves ).But it is not ;it is a gripping fantasy and horror work ,with a firm screenplay-although the last sequences -which were not so necessary - are déjà Vu.

As for the rest,it is above average fantasy stuff:only four characters -the latter appearing late in the story-,and interest is sustained throughout ;little by little ,clues are given to the viewer,who will not be able to guess the ins and outs of the question until the writers reveal the whole truth.

The stand- out is Sam Wasterton's daughter ,who looks like the all-American-girl-of-long-ago actress ,the likes of Teresa Wright or Cathy O'Donnell;her old-fashioned clothes are a vital clue.But I will not spoil your pleasure any longer.

It is noteworthy that the screenwriters give their characters substance ;they are not in here to be killed (or get laid)every fifteen minutes à la "Final Destination" .

Enter !

I Ain't dead!, 19 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ambitious ,including some disturbing sequences (in the second third) ,but with a truly disappointing ending which boils down a strange screenplay à la Polanski to a mundane love story .

The director wanted to link two worlds,two ways of life and two cultures .Yacine is a brilliant student ,but his family does not seem to be aware of it:he is at odds with his father and the rest of his family ,with the exception of his kid brother with whom he shares a seedy apartment;his girlfriend does not play a prominent part,being mostly decorative (she is not a Muslim).In direct contrast with this,we meet Richard :a professor ,who takes much interest in the Young student's walk of life ;apparently,he has all that he could wish for: every one of his books was a success,and his career at the university is buoyant;nevertheless he knows he's getting old and that life has lost its mystery:a father who's a pain in the neck ,a brother ,and a pretty (but a bit listless) wife .

In its second part,the movie turns Highsmith's "the talented Mr Ripley" into a fantasy story;Richard dies and Yacin tells the professor's baffled family that he's "not dead" but that he lives in another body.Split personality? Desire to be part of the elite ?to escape from a family he is ashamed of?Desire for the widow? After several intriguing scenes (the ceremony Yacine is not allowed to attend ,the nightmare,the cemetery) ,all peters out in the last part :the last picture evades these questions.

A good potential ,but a very average treatment.

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