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Le Grand Ecuyer (Master of the horse), 1 September 2014

Just a minor detail about the summary on the main page:Cinq Mars did not die on the guillotine because it was not invented in the seventeenth century!He was beheaded and ,as the executioner was not experimented,he and his companions had a horrible death.

This movie from the brilliant series "La Camera Explore Le Temps " is dominated by Jean-Pierre Marielle's sensational portrayal of king Louis The Thirteenth that displays every nuance of fragility and desperation:he sometimes gets the urge to become the master but never gets round to it,becoming self-conscious when the Cardinal De Richelieu enters the scene.An austere man,whose friendship with his young marquis was true: almost all the historians wrote that this affair was platonic,considering the devout side of this monarch.A king afraid to die (the conspiracy takes place in 1942,and he would die the following year ,six months after the Cardinal;a stunning scene (historically accurate) shows the king and Richelieu ,lying on their bed ,sharing the same bedroom and talking about their death which draws near.

The Cardinal (well played by Pierre Asso ) is a very clever man who does not forget he is a member of a religious order and whose aim is not to get wealth but strengthen his sovereign's authority .He seems to play cat and mouse with the characters around him.He prepares the future :Mazarin,who is featured in the movie ,is his student ,a student who will fight the rebellious nobles when La Fronde breaks out.

Henri De Cinq Mars (Guy Moigne ) is rather insipid ;the king's friendship is a way to fulfill his ambitions;when he's denied the right to become a duke and thus being able to marry princess De Gonzague (Francine Bergé),his hatred for Richelieu will know no bounds.He's not a romantic Young hero -in the movie he rather looks like a selfish minion.Historian Alain Decaux calls him a traitor (he received money from Spain )and a birdbrain: he really believes that Louis will approve of his plot:he does not realize that the king does need the cardinal who keeps a close watch on everybody.

The king's brother,Gaston D'Orléans briefly appears at the beginning;he seems a fearful man in this scene,but he will play a prominent part in La Fronde Rebellion.

It's all play acting, 31 August 2014

Yes it's all play acting !Emile works as a prop-man for a friend director (the prologue ,which features the famous "L'Hirondelle Des Faubourgs",badly sung,is rather smart ).

His wife left him when their daughter was still a baby because she asked for more .So she invented a fictitious husband ,enough to make the girl dream all night:he owns lots of plantations in Congo ,he meets presidents in Africa ,he is a raider ,an explorer . Now the girl wants to marry and at the time,she needed her dad's permission;but the snob wife does not want her hubby to meet this lousy father ,who has nothing to do with with the super papa she put on a pedestal.Emile is not prepared to accept it and he goes to his wife's mansion ,ready to play the part of the wealthy progenitor !It's all play acting!

Fernandel excels in this kind of part in which he plays a role which is not his:the subject will be reworked ,in Jean Boyer's "Sénéchal Le Magnifique" with even more style .He depicts Africa ,where he has never set foot in his life ,with a wonderful naiveté,and the daughter and her fiancé are worship the ground he walks on: the tom-toms,the cardboard jungle,the irrigation,and even the tigers ("there are no tigers in Africa ,sir/-I imported them")

And in the last segment,Emile hires an actor to play the part of a villain so that the gun-shy fiancé (who grows plants in a greenhouse and who is afraid of being out of his depth )can show he is brave too... It's all play acting again,but what if is the villain is a true villain?

Generally panned by the critics,"Emile L'Africain " is nevertheless a pleasant comedy which owes everything to his principal's prodigious talent.

Genesis 37-45, 31 August 2014

The first Italian movie by Irving Rapper.

The screenplay is rather faithful to Genesis ,which is much to the credit of the movie.Only Joseph and Benjamin are true brothers ,both Rachel's children, whereas the others share the same father with other mothers .

All that you learn in Sunday school is included: the brothers ' jealousy (which was justified,the Holy Writ tells us so -the robe-)Joseph's dream in which his brothers bow to him ,his interpretation of dreams which made him pharaoh's adviser ,and the coming of his family in Egypt.

Robert Morley is the stand out of a rather faceless cast:his tongue in chick playing works wonders in the scene of the slaves market .Putiphar and his wife are given more importance than in the Good Book .The hunting (in the jungle,with black warriors) becomes ridiculous.The opening of the floodgates so that the enemy gets drowned is a (very) poor man's "ten commandments" .The little arithmetic problem of the fifteen sheep is probably not a good way to introduce Joseph (generally,this little riddle concerns camels).

That said,this is an entertaining flick,in which you will not feel God's inspiration,and emotion is terribly lacking when Joseph meets again his bros ,but it is certainly not worse than the other Italian Peplums of the era.

The film Eugène Sue would have made, 30 August 2014

There were lots and lots of movies based on Eugene Sue's famous melodrama in the dregs of society.this is the first of the two MTV works ;in spite of a very modest budget ,this version is Superior to the six-episode miniseries of the early eighties .It is the movie (and I include the three movies released in theaters in 1943,1957 and 1962,the latter being the worst)which is the most faithful to the book :actually it is that version that makes me read this mammoth novel.

The cast is impressive and features the upper crust of the French TV actors of the era.Some of them (Victor Lanoux,Claude Piéplu) would even enjoy a career on the silver screen.

Excellent screenplay by Claude Santelli;directed by Marcel Cravenne who made a memorable "Danse De Mort" starring Erich Von Stroheim (1946) before working for TV.

He came in through the bathroom window, 30 August 2014

Based on Richard Wright's "savage Holiday" in which the writer shies away from the racial problems he depicted in such works as "native son".

"La Passerelle" (the footbridge) links two apartments,both owned by a confirmed bachelor,Jean (Pierre Arditi): the other is occupied by his tenant ,a strip-teaser/dancer,Cora , who raises her child Antoine .One day,after a bath ,he is locked out ;he tries to get into his bathroom through the window,but doing so,the brat sees him stark naked,and ,scared,falls from the footbridge and falls into a coma .

Driven by guilt ,Jean conceals the circumstances of the accident;but Cora says she saw a shadow .The man ,eaten with remorse ,does his best to help Cora with her plight .

Neither the actors (Pierre Arditi is an excellent thespian though) nor their lines can convey the psychological tension ,and halfway through ,the plot fails to interest ;the screenwriters try to enliven things by telling Cora's racy past ,by showing Jean a victim of sexual taboo during his childhood,which is quite derivative for a guy of his generation.They even introduce the character of orphan Jean 's child-minder to no avail ;this nursemaid is played by old actress Jany Holt:after working with such luminaries as Gance,Duvivier,Bresson,Chenal and Lacombe who gave her her best role in "Le Pays Sans Etoiles" ,she would have deserved a happy retirement .

It's possible that the footbridge is symbolic:the boy's accident will bring two lonely people closer together .

all that glitters...., 30 August 2014

In Broca's career,it's the follow up to "Le Farceur" with the same actor Jean-Pierre Cassel ;this time,the director has all the trumps but one : -Four brilliant actors:besides Cassel,François Périer as an archivist whose passion for history becomes a bore his wife courageously stands;Micheline Presles as a socialite with a lorgnette;and above all,a brunette Jean Seberg ,extremely beautiful,with a wonderful expressive look.The precedent user is entirely right when he wrote that she was never as attractive as in this film.

-As usual,a delightful score by Georges Delerue ,Paris waltz style.

-A remarkable black and white cinematography ,enhancing Paris and the country landscapes.

Unfortunately ,the screenplay is terribly derivative :these light-hearted banters make the movie seem like a luxurious box,as magnificent as Madeleine's desirable mansion ,but hollow.

I like De Broca's following works best:"Cartouche" "L'Homme De Rio" and his overlooked masterpiece "Le Roi De Cœur" .

Brothers in arms, 29 August 2014

A French-Russian co-production ,dedicated to the brave French fighter pilots who helped the Russian ones in 1942.

The beginning of the movie is not to be missed:the Nazis seem to have the upper hands,and the French army,who was defeated ,has to obey "the old man" (Pétain)and to superiors who call their subordinates deserters if they rebel against them .The officer is more interested in his men's slovenly appearance than any resistance .

That's why some pilots ,often very Young (one of them has not turned twenty),disgusted by their insincerity,join,after many difficulties,the Russian air force.

Jean Dréville avoids a story like tale,he only shows the brotherhood and the friendship of these men of two nations,struggling against their common enemy: Nazism.All the soldiers keep their first language (there is an interpreter),which shows respect for the audience .But they do understand one another:their smiles,the wistful Russian songs .Even if accidents happen (a Russian pilot shot down by a French(Pierre Trabaud) ),they hope for the best .

Remarkable scenes:

-The Russian playing a sad tune on his accordion;suddenly his playing becomes joyful and catchy: a pilot ,they thought was killed in action ,has reappeared ;beaming,he writes his name again on the blackboard with a proud 1 (he shot down a German plane)

-A pilot (Georges Rivière)wants to share the things owned by a missing man:his mates' reactions ;is he right?is he wrong?

I do not know the Russian actors,but the French ones are familiar faces :there 's no real star ,but they were all talented supporting thespians in many movies (besides Trabaud and Rivière,one can mention André Oumansky,Marc Cassot (as the commander),Gianni Esposito (as a pacifist schoolteacher ,but Goebbels's sentence "when I hear the word culture,I reach for my gun" made him a fighter pilot).

Dreville's follow-up movie was a super production "La Fayette":the French marquis coming to the Americans' rescue this time!and they say Dreville was not an auteur!

Cornel Il Grande, 27 August 2014

Above average Italian sword and sandal:it is longer than the usual peplum (2 hours+),the settings are not cheap,and there's a solid American actor(and a director,one often forgets he made the memorable "naked prey"and the estimable "no blade of grass" )as the lead ,Cornel Wilde ,a Hollywood veteran ("leave her to Heaven" ,"Forever Amber","the greatest show on earth" and many more) .

Constantin's mother's destiny is not exactly what we see in the movie:she was not a highborn lady (an innkeeper's daughter) and Constantin was not estranged from her till his victory over Maxence;but the movie introduces her with taste .To keep a story-like side,the screenwriters invent the tale of two unfortunate lovers Adrian and Livia (the delicate Christine Kaufman who played opposite Steve Reeves in Bonnard/Leone's doomed "last days of pompei"(1959) in which she was ...a young Christian of course!) Wilde is a convincing Constantin,he gets good support from the rest of the cast ;this is neither "Spartacus" ,nor "Cleopatra " ,but as an entertaining epic ,that's still good value

From pasta factory to porn industry, 26 August 2014

In 1976,the movie was a good commercial success but the critics were sometimes unfair ;in "La Saison Cinématographique 1976",the (leftist) journalist wrote that Lautner did not take any chances,that he praised faithfulness and preserved the scale of social values.He added that he got bored after 30 minutes .

Hindsight displays its charms.After May 68,pornographic movies industry mushroomed and it was par excellence the kind of movie one might long ago have predicted Lautner would make .

A man working in a pasta factory writes a "serious" screenplay called "Le Miroir De L'Ame " (=Mirror of soul) in which terrorists breaks into a bourgeois house :their leader falls for the wealthy daughter ,but their love remains chaste;finally the revolutionaries win them over) A director (Pierre Richard,overtaken by events) agrees to make it but they need money ,thus a Producer;enter Morlock ,an unscrupulous porno tycoon (Jean Pierre Marielle ,at the top of his form).He asks for some changes in the screenplay and "Le Miroir De L'Ame " becomes "La Vaginale" (=the vaginal one).

There's never a dull moment ;there are furtive nudities,but no coarseness.The movie lacks finesse in its last third and its last scene is overlong and disappointing.But there are good scenes :my favorite is the screen test in which the actress is asked to read lines from Molière 's "L'Ecole Des Femmes" twice, the first time fully dressed ,and the second one stark naked :Miou-Miou shines in this sequence ,with tears in her eyes.

"On Aura Tout Vu" (= that beats everything)is no masterpiece,but the actors make it worthwhile.

Like this.....Try this.....

"Attention Les Yeux" (Gérard Pirès,1976)

Artishocks, 26 August 2014

Jocelyn Quivrin was to play the lead,but he died before the shooting :that's why the movie is dedicated to him.

Jérémie Rénier became "Philibert ,Capitaine Puceau " (= Virgin Captain);directed by Sylvain Fusée (whose surname means "rocket")! Rénier is certainly one of the ten best European actors of today:At ease in dramas and in comedies ,he has plenty of go,of humor,and the part of a clumsy oaf was tailor made for him .

It's the sixteenth century ,folks,in the kingdom of France and Philibert's father ,who grows artichokes ,sees his cultures thrive .The boy's career is mapped out in a century hard on the poor ;besides he does not want to lose his virginity until he finds the one God intends for him.

The movie is a wonderful spoof on the swashbuckler genre, Jean Marais's costume dramas of the late fifties/early sixties and pirates sagas ,with a good dose of melodrama thrown in for good measure.

What does Philibert learn? That his father is not his father ,that he is a highborn young man,whose true dad was killed by a lord,a villain inspired by the numerous Robin Hood versions.

.A strawberry mark proves it. So long,artichokes,hello adventures !Philibert 's saga will be eventful ,the hardest thing being to keep his virginity (hence his nickname).And there are enough gorgeous ladies on his way to make the task difficult.

Vive Philibert!And Vive Rénier!


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