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Minne (1950)
The libertine ingénue, 28 July 2015

Based on a Colette novel,directed by the writer's regular director,Jacqueline Audry ,whose career began before Agnès Varda's.

The best moments are to be found at the beginning:Minne has just married to a less-than-handsome cousin ,and her mom gives her a piece of advice for her wedding night.Actually,mother frets over the slightest thing -this night must bring back bad memories to her- for mommy's little Darling has her feet firmly planted in the ground;the title "L'Ingénue Libertine" tells it all.In the same way,daddy tells his listless blue-eyed boy what to do on a night like this...

A good flashback is given over to Minne's so called racy past she tells her hubby : the pictures categorically refute her words .The soundtrack is based on an old French song ,'J'ai Un Beau Château" ,a transparent metaphor of virginity.

Three years after the wedding,the father-in-law has this priceless line: "you've been married for three years and still you're happy;this is worrying".

The movie might possess considerable appeal for a female audience;men may sometimes yawn their head off ,but Danièle Delorme's charm can win them over.

OSS 117 takes a holiday:let's get cracking Art!, 28 July 2015

First thing to bear in mind is that the screenplay is based on Jean Bruce's novel and is part of the OSS 117 spy novels ;However the movie (directed by a French and a French /Italy co-production) does not feature Hubert Bonnisseur De La Bath alias OSS 117 :he is replaced by an American secret agent Art Smith (played by Sean Flynn ,whose short career essentially took place in Italy.Part of the reason can be found in the numerous OSS 117 films which were produced at the time in France ,portrayed by Kerwin Matthews,John Gavin ,Frederick Stafford...before being brilliantly parodied by Jean Dujardin in recent years: Flynn would have been another OSS 117 ,so they changed his identity.

As for the story itself ,it is an implausible mysteriously story of marines ,mysteriously disappearing:your disbelief must be suspended when you discover what terrible fate lay in store for them;nevertheless,it has become some kind of cult movie ,weren't it only for its title (the word game ,present in all Bruce's titles,"Cinq Gars Pour Singapour" (=five guys to Singapore)which is lost in translation.The female part (gorgeous Marika Green) was fleshed out .

Fathers and sons., 28 July 2015

I saw this film when I was a child and I was disappointed but I did not remember why;when I saw it again yesterday,it was obvious :Zorro was not the masked hero with his whip under a stormy sky streaked with lightnings ;the hero wears a mask in one sequence and that's it.There's no sergeant Garcia ,and the comic relief is provided by a lookalike ,an alcoholic oaf(Folco Lulli) ,the hero's servant ,thus not on the side of the law (and not dumb,as Guy Williams' faithful Bernardo).Actually Don Ramon is the son of a wealthy generous man who was to free the country before being killed (with the help of a clergyman and the landlords' sons whose dads find time to do before joining the rebellion).The story begins in Europa ,in the Pays Basque ,in a melodramatic way ,but continues with plenty of fights (Sean Flynn is good at fencing).The sign of Zorro (check the title) is not used that much.

What is fascinating is not this simplistic screenplay ,which could have been written by a eleven-year-old as an essay :it's the son of legendary actor playing the part of a son of a legendary hero.

Saxo (1988)
Our producer is the Lord ., 24 July 2015

In "souvenirs souvenirs"(1984) ,an ex-rock star ,coming back from the Algerian war,tries to relaunch his career.

Ariel Zeitoun carried on with a similar subject,but in a darker mood ,in his sophomore effort :Gerard Lanvin portrays a music manager who discovers two black musicians ,a sax and a guitarist/vocalist ;perhaps he dreams of another Ike and Tina Turner. Sam is a pure guy ,he works for the sake of art ,but he has forgotten that the others do not.

"Everybody's guilty,but the woman has to take it and love the pain away" Puppet desperately sings;and this brother-and-sister team is odd:Sam is often disconcerted by their attitude:they do not want to stay in France,they are not interested in being rich and famous,they only work when they are inspired by the Lord (the scene when Joe wants to erase the tapes is revealing).On the other hand,there's a short unexpected S/M scene and Joe's frustration leads to tragedy.

This is a genuine Film Noir of the eighties that should be rediscovered.

NB :Zeitoun and Lanvin teamed up again for the disastrous remake of "Angélique". Stick with "Saxo" .

Duel in the mud, 23 July 2015

The lord of the manor (Julien Guiomar) wants to cancel a rural lease and get rid of the good farmer (Jean Carmet,true to life,and the only reason to see this flick) who is not prepared to accept it;so he calls his two-bit psychologist (Pierre Richard ,in one of her worst parts)to the rescue.

The first scene between the squire and the peasant promises a good comedy;but you are becoming somewhat disenchanted soon.This is a coarse comedy,vulgar ,the screenplay is a dreadful jumble and the contribution of psychology is minimal,to put it mildly:outside of the ink stains test cliché ,the shrink studies the behavior of the owner of the manor,stuck in liquid manure on his horse (Where are the SPA, the RSPCA and the ASPCA?) .The final rebel against the authorities may recall an updated "Jacquou Le Croquant",but it's so heavy-handed -complete with a duel in the mud ,à la "A thousand hills"- that you might be give up before .

Zwei Franken,monsieur!, 20 July 2015

You do not change a winning team;the Romy Schneider/Karl Boehm partnership proved highly successful in the legendary "Sissi" which became one of the biggest blockbusters in fifties Europa and spawned two sequels (Romy turned down a hefty sum to make a fourth episode) So here they are again,but their numerous fans have got to be patient :it takes 48 minutes before they meet.

"Kitty Und Die Große Welt" is pleasant harmless stuff ,in the tradition of Schneider's very early roles;she was 16 (and not 18 ,as we are told in this movie)and portrays not an empress but a musician 's daughter ,a musician who plays in the fanfare which welcomes the ministers of the foreign affairs who come for an international conference in Geneva .

Kitty is a manicurist who ,by chance ,meets the English minister ("you could be my father")and becomes a prey of the tabloids ;to protect her ,the politician sends his nephew (Boehm) who,of course ,is going to fall for her.They go on a stroll by the banks of Genova Lake and enjoy cheese fondue (there's a similar scene in an inn in the second installment of the Sissi Saga).

Meanwhile ,the uncle,who has never a penny in his pocket ,discovers the bistros ,he takes the bus as humble people do ;the best scene takes place on the lake when the boy claims his due and the distinguished English has to row the boat ashore.

This is a simple comedy,but one that might possess considerable appeal for fans of Sissi .For those who like Schneider's later career,they'd better move on.As for me,I like Romy in any movie.

Entrée Des Artistes, 19 July 2015

Francis Perrin wrote the screenplay which is reportedly based on his own story;he is essentially a stage actor .With a few exceptions ("On S'Est Trompé D'Histoire D'Amour"),he has never been given great parts in the cinema.Fortunately ,"Le débutant" (actually a misnomer for Perrin was not one,by a long shot ,when the movie was made)shows extracts of the famous plays in which he performed :he is dazzlingly talented in the part of Covielle from "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme" and in Figaro's monologue.And we would like more of his "Scapin" .

Julien Berteau is convincing as a dramatic art teacher and his scenes with his students recall Marc Allégret's "Entrée Des Artistes" (1938)and the unique Louis Jouvet.

The rest of the movie is often pleasant,but sometimes heavy-handed:the comings and goings in the hotel corridors,the episode of the diva ,and the repetitive gag of the bleeding nose.

Good supporting parts by Dominique Lavanant as an authoritarian thespian who rules her circle with an iron hand and by Jean-Claude Brialy as his submissive husband.

My afternoons with Selma, 18 July 2015
7/10

"La Tête En Friche" aka "my afternoons with Margueritte" proved highly successful and made Gisele Casadesus a full-fledged star of the silver screen ,at 96!

This lady's career actually began in 1934 with Marcel L'Herbier ("L'Aventurier") and encompassed in her early days such memorable works as "Vautrin" and "L'Homme Au Chapeau Rond" in which she played opposite Raimu.But she was never given interesting parts in the cinema (See "Verdict" and the dreadful "Un Mari C'est Un Mari" ) and it's as a stage actress that she enjoyed a brilliant career,playing all the classics ;she also appeared in lots of MTV works .

"Sous Le Figuier" was ruthlessly panned by the critics and the audience turned their back on it;it was accused of trying to capitalize on the success of "La Tete En Friche" .

But if it weren't only for Mrs Casadesus ,now a centenarian ,and still working,this movie is worth watching:she shines in this part of a terminally-ill delightful old lady ,who "does not want her friend to cry because she does want to smile till the very end " and as Bertold Brecht wrote in "Die Unwürdige Greisin" ,she wants to eat the bread of life till its last crumbs: the joy of wearing for the first time a new hat ("it is not my birthday but as I won't celebrate my next one.."),of savoring toasts with spread Nutella ,of watching again Clint Eastwood's "the bridges of Madison County";and to top it all, a wild ride at 125 miles per hour.

Objections to "Sous Le Figuier" remain;the first thirty minutes suffer from a desultory script ;if the director wanted to show what a wise woman can bring to would be losers -actually they are not:one of the women's daughter is to study in Shanghai-then she signally failed in her purpose .The three "young" characters are totally lifeless and it's only when they play opposite Selma Under the fig tree or somewhere else Under the blue sky that the actors play their game well,particularly Anne Consigny.Directing sometimes takes the easy way out:the rain sets in when Selma is taken to the hospital and the very last picture is a hackneyed cliché.

Let's mention the nice cinematography which enhances the splendid country landscapes,a very lovely score à la Georges Delerue which for once spares us the obligatory "pop" songs in English (the only songs are Piaf' s "La Goualante Du Pauvre Jean" ,hummed by Nathalie and an unidentified ditty by one of the girlies).

And ,one more time ,hats off to Mrs Casadesus whose artistic longevity is equaled only by that of Mrs Darrieux in France!

Raimu brilliantly bows out, 17 July 2015
9/10

Although based on Dostoyevsky's novel,and in spite of the Russian names ,Pierre Billon,unlike his thirties colleagues ,did not try to re-create a Russian atmosphere,the story could take place anywhere.

This is Pierre Billon's towering achievement ,the only movie in a rather uneven filmography which includes such estimable works as "Vautrin" "Ruy Blas" "Agnès De Rien" or " Chéri" ,which can be ranked as high as the best of Duvivier and Clouzot with whom he shares here a fascination for the darkness of the human soul .

That was to be Raimu's last part ,and he did leave on a high note ,this man with a derby (bowler hat)is his final triumph! A widower comes to see a former womanizer who is his only daughter's biological daughter ;then begins a cruel game between the two men . Raimu ,for the first and only time in his career ,is almost scary;matching him all the way is Aimé Clarion's old beau , who tries to redeem himself by taking care of the little girl and to relive his youth with a seventeen-year -old maid.In their infernal cat and mouse play,Raimu has always the upper hand but you cannot tell good from evil .

The director works with his camera like a painter does with shadows and light: it's the triumph of studio cinema:the obscure bedroom where Michel is haunted by ghosts from the past ,the dirty alleys where Nicolas roams,stalking his prey,the muddy yard where his daughter plays with the street urchins(in sharp contrast to the country mansion,where the children seems straight out of a Comtesse De Ségur novel)

Outstanding sequences:

-Nicolas ,pretending to hang himself,in front of his terrified daughter;one of the ten most atrocious scenes of the French cinema.

-The same,simulating sympathy for the family of a dead dashing officer.

-The blind man's buff game .

-The reception in the lounge where the self -interested selfish parents (Louis Seigner and Jeanne Marken) "sell" their offspring.

-The sweet Marie (Gisele Casadesus ,now a centenarian ,and still working:"Sous Le Figuier ""La Tête En Friche"aka "My afternoon with Margueritte") comforting Lisa and desperately trying to save her from her doomed fate.

An absolute must.

The Turkey (1951)
Heartbreak hotel, 17 July 2015

"Le Dindon" is based on the eponymous Georges Feydeau's play ,pure Théâtre De Boulevard .

A womanizer tries to seduce a woman who swears she will never cheat on her husband as long as he is faithful to her.And it is only the beginning of "investigations" ,some of them involving the police,to find who cheats on who (the seducer's and the respectable wife's spouses have also problems with their hidden affairs .

The best part takes place in hotel whose manager is none other than the famous Louis De Funès.In this place everybody tries to catch the others on the act;but many cases of mistaken identities occur,including one with a M.O. and his deaf wife ,Coco,who would enjoy ballets more if there were music (Louis Ségnier and Jeanne Marken);the sequence of the ringing is hilarious.

The director,Claude Barma,would work for TV later on,and greater glories were shortly to follow,with his outstanding miniseries "Belphégor" .


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