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"The Hardy bros,Nancy Drew and Rin Tin Tin Rolled into one ......", 19 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers *** an English critic aptly wrote .

Based on Enyd Blyton's "Five fall into adventure ",the script has almost nothing from the book : it was the first the Five had met Jo ,and it's the only element taken from the original story ;however ,the screenwriters turned ragamuffin gypsy Jo into Thai girl ,eager to save her village ,threatened by a greedy tycoon (the real treasure ,so to speak,is not the pirates ' treasure the five (six!) are searching)who wants to raise it to the ground so satisfy his dirty deeds.

The ecological concern ,which was present in the first installment (in which George's dad had a collaborator too),comes back to the fore ;Germans have always been concerned by the environment ,more than many other people in Europa.It shows.

Our four heroes have grown up and it shows too (only Timmy is still the same good dog);they look more like adolescents than children now ,a problem Blyton had not when she wrote her novels (still in the best-sellers top 10 in the Naughties in UK).

The movie was lambasted by many critics ,particularly in France and they were wrong;this one is ,IMHO,much better than volume 2 which was too tongue in chick (and even vulgar) to satisfy those who read Blyton in their prime .

The shady couple serves as a comic relief ,only the man actually,for his wife is a true villain,deadlier than the male .Admittedly ,the trick of the compass is far-fetched ,but not more than the melody that led to the green eye in the precedent episode .

For the first time ,it features really dramatic elements: stung by a venomous insect, Julian is going to die :only a plant (red berries) could save him .Rin Tin Tin's (sorry Timmy's ) role has been fleshed out and only his courage saves the sick boy and the village .

A little listless in its first part ,the film hits its stride halfway through and then it becomes an action-packed story.Too often ,Jo steals the show from the Five but Timmy ,maybe much to George's displeasure ,but it does not spoil the audience's pleasure.

Five get into trouble., 17 January 2017

The second installment in the Famous Five saga was,like the first one, modernized ,with use of computers ,mobiles ,and even a robot dog which puzzles good old Timmy.

The book has undergone some changes : a prologue set in 1587 shows a monastery where the monks are deprived of their precious green gemstone (the green eye),in spite of a local robin Hood ,die Schwarze Katze , (the black cat);this blast from the past has a Deja Vu taste and does not hang well with the rest of the film.totally invented by the screenwriters

From the book: Richard (Hardy) is a rich kid who owns the latest gimmick and whose father leaves to his own devices ;exit mother and aunt.Rookie (present in the movie)was his bodyguard but something happened ;Mick (Dick) is mistaken for Richard and gets kidnapped ,this is the principal element taken from the novel.

This is rather a comedy ,not a thriller aimed at the children ;both villains ,like in the first episode ,are brothers who look like cartoon characters ,Cruella 's henchmen in "101 dalmatians" ;besides one of them farts at night ,which is not Blytonesque at all.

The best moments are to be found at the beginning and in the final sequences: the Richard /Five meeting begins with the obligatory "my,my! George is a girl ?Isn't it odd?" which infuriates our tomboy;true to herself,wimpish Anne is afraid of the noises in the forest(but reveals herself a useful musician);Richard is boastful, vain,and it 'll take time before he gets integrated in the fab five 's alliance.Long- haired Mick is ,like in the first movie,pedantic ,and he has developed a taste for junk food (where are his aunt's good meals of the stories?)

The interest increases in the scenes in the subterranean ,where Richard recalls Tom Thumb's method .But the highlight is definitely the circus show :"it's boring" ,mom,says a young girl in the audience;then after the Fab' s (and particularly George's ) unexpected entrance, she changes her mind! although it's a little too much for that tomboy George ,it's well directed and enthralling.

Pierrot Le Doux, 17 January 2017

François Villiers tried his hand at many genres ,and was not always successful: Faux Neo Realisme Poétique ("Hans Le Marin" ) poor thrillers ("Constance Aux Enfers " " Le Puits Aux Trois Vérités" ),and even ecological fable ("L'Eau Vive").

"Pierrot La Tendresse" is probably his best effort ;of course it owes a big deal to the extraordinary Michel Simon ,whose tongue-in chick playing is nothing short of brilliant ; co-starring with this Monstre Sacrés ,the supporting cast rises to the occasion: Claude Brasseur as Tony who has just been released from jail for good behavior;Dany Carel as Pierrot's bubble head ward ,brought up by the nuns ;Marie Daems ,as the owner of the "original sin" inn (sic) who hires her staff on the prefect's recommendation;Jean -Pierre Marielle as the Préfet 's protégé,actually a fink ;Maurice Biraud as the accomplice who invests the money of the loot in schools ("why did you lend my money to the state? I'll never get my dough back !- it will be profitable in the long term);Harry-Max as the notary who charge you 50 million for a five-minute work....

Based on an Exbrayat's thriller,this short comedy (75 min) has plenty of good lines ,and there's never a dull moment .Why deny yourself a pleasant moment?

Art lovers, 16 January 2017

How many movies are there about Lucrezia Borgia? Certainly more than you'll ever know,not counting the numerous miniseries.This one is not the best ,but it's also far from the worst .

The action takes place in the last part of Lucrezia's life,when she was duchess of Ferrara ;her notorious brother Cesar was dead then and yet does not appear even though the sister hints at him while taking a flask of poison.At the time ,lucrezia was essentially a patron,protecting the artists.

And artists does appear in this screenplay in which an unauthorized statue plays a prominent part ;while her husband is at war,Lucrezia is wooed by many gallant men ,who praises her beauty through their poetry ,their sculptures ,or their paintings.There are real life characters such as Barbara Torelli (whose husband ,Strozzi, mysteriously died,if we are to believe the historians)and Pietro Bembi.

An unusually interesting sequence shows the making of the Renaissance heavy artillery.

In this movie,and mostly at the end of it,Lucrezia ,who was actually a pawn in her father's and brother's game ,appears as a victim of her stunning beauty ,which caused so many deaths ,and brought many ghosts around her bed .In Abel Gance's version (1934) starring Edwige Feuillère,we see the heroine in a mausoleum,wandering around the graves ;there's the obligatory bath scene in both movies, but Hinrich's scene is much less erotic and less osé than Gance's.

Les Amitiés Particulières., 15 January 2017

Jacqueline Audry is a special case in French cinema:today ,her work is either disdained or ignored.Nevertheless she was ,along Ida Lupino,and long before Agnès Varda ,the only woman director of the era ;and like her American peer ,she often focused on female psychology .From her personal version of child book by Comtesse De Ségur 's "Les Malheurs De Sophie" (Feuillère hints at it when she says it's the first book she gave to Olivia ;and a private joke too ,since it's Audry's first movie) to Sartre' s "Huis Clos" to Victor Limur's "La Garçonne ".

Girls school was a subject Audry had to broach ;except for two brief scenes ,it does not feature any male actors ;like in Leontine Sagan's "Madchen In Uniform" ,remade by Radvanyi in 1960 with Romy Schneider and Lili Palmer ,it's a movie which depicts lesbian friendship ;it was already a subplot in "club De Femmes" (1936) and ,two years after"Olivia" ,in "Dortoir Des Grandes " (1953) another subplot concerns a maths teacher in love with a beautiful pupil.

But in France ,only Jacqueline Audry dared to make an entire movie with the ambiguous shady relationship between women and girls ;along "La Garçonne" which told us the story of a woman who intended to live like a man in La Belle Epoque and "Huis Clos" ,which featured a lesbian character ,played by glorious Arletty,"Olivia " might be the director's apex.At a time when female directors make more and more their presence felt on the contemporary French scene ,isn't it about time to restore to favor the unsung Jacqueline Audry .

"Olivia" features two teachers ,Mademoiselle Julie (imperial Edwige Feuillère) and Mademoiselle Cara (Simone Simon ,known as the female lead in Renoir's masterpiece " La Bete Humaine" ,but who was also the unforgettable heroine of Tourneur's "cat people " ,and thus ,a perfect choice for his hypochondriac suicidal character).Both vie with each other for their pupils' love ,and the elegant aristocratic fascinating Juliette has the upper hand ;her whining anorexic colleague is no match for her and she sees desperately her favorites " leave her" for her brilliant enemy :although they pretend to be friends,their hate lies dormant,and tragedy is waiting around the corner.

Audry and her screenwriter/husband Pierre Laroche uses French literature as never before,and never since ..The extracts structure the story and inspire its vital romanticism :

Racine's Andromaque who desperately wants to save her son Astyanax is Juliette's burning love for the children she never had, thus her favorite pupils.

Lamartine's "Le lac"( "O Temps Suspends Ton Vol" (=time,stand still))is the happy time of the Juliette /Olivia relationship ,which culminates in the extraordinary scene of the Christmas fete.

Racine's "Berenice" is a transparent metaphor for the impending parting ;Hugo's "Paroles Sur LA Dune" is downright morbid with its"death,black bolt"

This is a place where boys never tread :maths are despised (and so is the teacher ,who makes up for it with what we could call binge- eating syndrome)and never taken seriously :a hundred years after,it would become THE subject ,even for girls,but at the time it was boys' business.

Boys are never mentioned : one of the girls gets a bad mark for her essay on Corneille 's "Le Cid" just because too much of her work was given over to Rodrigue's character!Off-topic!(or men are considered rivals in Juliette's mind).In the sensational Christmas fancy dress ball scene,which climaxes the movie, Juliette is like a queen on her throne,and Cara is nothing but an embittered lady-in-waiting.Around them ,girls dance together ,sometimes dressed up as men in an extremely sensual atmosphere.

A very permissive atmosphere in this luxury school ,where the "Crème De La Crème " ,as Miss Jean Brodie would say,reads lit classics all day long but every rose has its thorn and these students(and their teachers) cut themselves off from the real world .

The office Catholique Du Cinema forbade the movie to their flock (although they did not do the same for "Madchen In uniform" ,perhaps because the latter took place in Germany!)

Who will give Jacqueline Audry the place she deserves in the French cinema?

Carcass and Wring-Neck, 10 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Third movie by René Chanas ,but not the first time he had teamed up with Michel Simon who was the star of his sophomore effort " La Taverne Du Poisson Couronné " ;but La "Carcasse Et Le Tord-Cou " is superior to the former.

Often compared to "Goupi Mains rouges" ,but,although both movies take place in the country,Chanas's work is a horse of a different color:whereas Becker's movie was primarily a rural thriller, " Carcasse" is closer to Maupassant's short stories or Zola 's "La Terre".

A cunning farmer ,"TOrd -Cou" (Michel Simon ) and his greedy son-in- law "La Carcasse"(Lucien Coedel ,in his last role) hate each other .When the former 's wife dies ,the fifty-year-old man marries a young girl ,Theresa,whom his in-law covets though he is married to Lucie.

The Office Catholique Du Cinema advised their flock against this immoral movie,although the ending is,in a way ,very edifying ,cause the two criminals who get away with their murder,are going to tear each other to pieces ;all is greed and lust in this God -forsaken world ,where a funeral is an excuse for drinking ,so to speak,to the departed 's health (or memory).The notary (Jean Brochard) is a smug person,full of himself ,who despises those uneducated hicks ;Theresa's father (Louis Seigner)is cynical ,sly and calculating and uses his daughter's beauty to latch onto Tord-Cou 's inheritance .Michel Simon is as great as ever and excels in his portrayal of a libidinous peasant.

King of hearts, 10 January 2017

Based on an André Lichtenberger novel , « Le Petit Roi «  had been impossible to see for years because of royalties;after the unquestionable success of « Poil De Carotte » (1932),it was only natural that the great Julien Duvivier teamed up again with his wiz kid Robert Lynen whose fate was tragic : a resistant fighter in WW2 ,he was tortured and executed by the Nazis.

The heir of an imaginary kingdom in central Europa,Michel VIII ,a sickly teenager ,is sent to France where he meets his mom who lives here in exile (he thought she was dead).But his health improves and duty calls in his homeland .

André Lichtenberger (29 November 1870, Strasbourg – 23 March 1940, Paris) was a French novelist and sociologist. He held a Doctor of Letters in history. Extracts of his works for children were often included in textbooks and used as dictations in the fifties .Today,unlike Jules Renard's "Poil De Carotte" which has remained popular ,Lichtenberger's books are a bit forgotten.

Duvivier 's purpose was certainly the same as in his adaptation of "Poil De Carotte" :an adolescent exposed to the cruel adult world,represented in the 1932 work ,by a hateful mom ,and in "Le Petit Roi" ,by the court intrigues and a regent and his secretaries who use him as a puppet -his uncle's wife even tries to poison him-,and by his people who is dreaming of a revolution.

In the first part (by far ,the best) which takes place in an imaginary land ,Duvivier's legendary pessimism is omnipresent: the first sequence shows a desperate man asking a priest for absolution ,because "he is going to kill the king" ;then a desolate country where poverty and hunger are rampant ,where a lunatic (played by Robert Le Vigan who cries like one possessed- by a strange irony of fate ,whereas Lynen "the little king" became a resistant fighter in WW2,Le Vigan collaborated with the occupant)curses the kingdom and the royalty; soldiers patrolling the streets . One thing to bear in mind that "Le Petit Roi " was written in 1910 ,at a time when L'Alsace and La Lorraine were German ;the writer was born in Strasbourg ,but his family left this region when it became German.

In direct contrast with this country in turmoil and this repressive regime ,we have a little king whose bed looks like a cage and whose only friend is his nanny ,Barbara ;his teachers stuff the heir's head with the past glory of their great country ("do you have to kill people to be in the mausoleum?).In search of a friend ,he tries to make friend with an anarchist who sneaked into the park ,but the man betrays him :the coronation ceremony climaxes the movie with this heavy cross the new king has to carry through the aisle ,too heavy a load for his frail shoulders .Later,returning good for evil,the young hero will refuse to play the politicians' game ,to no avail.

The second part ,which takes place on the Riviera,sadly ,is much less interesting,and does not avoid blandness and clichés ("I wish I were a child like the other ones" );we could expect more of the mother and child reunion and the games the king plays with his pals ("a pretend fight")) is too obvious a metaphor (a far cry from Borzague's 'no greater glory" ).Fortunately,this episode is rather short.

That said ,for Duvivier's fans (and I 'm part of them) ,this is a royal gift.And let's tip our hat to Thirard's cinematography.

All I am saying is give peace a chance., 6 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The screenplay is another variation of the "stagecoach " theme : a group of persons in jeopardy ,some of whom are enemies.At least in its second part:the first one,particularly the very first ,are confusing and the movie really takes off when ,in spite of an ominous warning,the travelers set off for territories where the Indians are a living threat.

Sen Blakely is a politician we do not meet every day : his attempt at a truce with the Indians is the most moving moment in the movie -it recalls Uncle Matthews ' vain attempt to communicate (armed with a cross) with the Martians in " war of the worlds " (Byron Haskin, 1954)-;his sacrifice is not vain : John (Dale Robertson)does some soul-searching and makes a decision which is not so obvious:he will clear Hamilton/Carter's name whereas he could easily get away with it.Let's add that miss Darnell's sumptuous dress-in the middle of the desert!- helps .As for her French servant,Giselle,C'est Une Lâcheuse.

Born in a cabbage, 5 January 2017

Henry Wulschleger was a coarse comedy past master: "Le train De 8H47" "Le Champion Du Régiment " " Tire Au Flanc " .....

Although one of his stars is Charles-Joseph Pasquier aka Bach ,the king of the genre,this story does not deal with grunts and does not take place in barracks .Based on a play by Yves Mirande and Julien Duvivier -both of whom were also directors ,the latter being my French all- time favorite-,it is actually a melodrama ,or rather a spoof on melodramas.

Mister Darnétal (Bach) is invited by his nephew Georges (Pierre Brasseur)to the premiere of his extravaganza in Paris;but his missus (he did not marry ,even after all those years)is not prepared to accept it and he uses his best friend as an alibi (and vice Versa);the two pals intend to live a wild life in the capital where there are plenty of lovely girls.But the uncle discovers that his dear nephew has a fiancée ,actually an unwed mother for she's got "Un Bout D'Chou" (a little kid).The young man has fallen for the star of his variety show,a coquette fickle Chanteuse who ,in the end ,only has eyes for her co-star in the show .Uncle gets angry ,threatens to disinherit this infamous nephew and marries the young mom ,unbeknown to his fifty-something partner who has come to meet him in Paris.

The play may have been inspired by some works by Marcel Pagnol: the movie begins and ends in Provence ,where uncle Victor lives ,a small village in the south of France,complete with Pétanque ,fifes,tambourines ,flutes and Farandoles ;the unwed mom is one of Pagnol's recurrent features.

We attend parts of the nephew's show:the only real interesting bit is the act entirely sung by children (which was rare in music hall) ;its final ,justifying the title ,shows a toddler born in a cabbage (formerly,boys were told they were born in this vegetable ,as for the girls ,it was a rose),a real Bout De Chou (=cabbage bit),but does not remind the author of his duty towards the girl he got pregnant.

The Office Catholique Du Cinema of the thirties strictly forbade this harmless comedy to their flock, in spite of the final double wedding : without a doubt,the old couple had been living in sin for too many years ;and a marriage of convenience (without a religious ceremony) went a bit too far .

Jim the crook (sic), 3 January 2017

The plot is roughly the same as the silent version ,"Jim La Houlette,Roi Des Voleurs".

"Philibert Bretonneau signs novels which are actually written by Moluchet, his secretary, secretly in love with Bretonneau's charming wife, Pauline... One day, Jim la Houlette, the king of thieves, resurfaces in France(...) Bretonneau's publisher, has an idea : to simulate the theft of a manuscript by Jim la Houlette, in fact by Moluchet posing as the criminal. But Moluchet, confronted by the real Jim, lets him run away and is arrested..(GUY BELLINGER)

A Fernandel vehicle, the scene of the trial ,in which Fernandel fights against ...his own lawyer (in order to win Pauline's love) is close to that of "Ne Le Criez Pas Sur Les Toits "(1942);the mysterious "Jim La Houlette " is in the grand tradition of Arsene Lupin and Rocambole ,the gentlemen -housebreakers,you probably won't guess his identity till Moluchet's escape .The ghost writer subject is still relevant today . The exploiter's trial ,in front of the underworld ,is ,relatively speaking,Lang's "M" turned comedy.

Marguerite Moreno's testimony ,full of subjunctive imperfects, is a true delight .

A pleasant comedy.

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