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Well,you might as well do things in style!, 28 September 2016

"Monsieur Bibi"aka " Faut Ce Qu'Il Faut ",made in 1940 ,was released in 1946,after the Liberation.

It was probably made to cheer the people up,after WW2 broke :besides the two male principals are middle-aged men,and Roland Toutain,here cast against type as the romantic young male lead ,has a relatively short screen time,for he was probably called up. A young man files for divorce ,so as to be able to marry his new love who is pregnant by him;unfortunately ,he has to go to war and to leave his fiancée behind,just after she gives birth to a baby girl. The baby's godfather suggest he marry her (marriage in name only) and thus she will get an allowance as a drafted reservist's wife.The plot thickens when an authoritarian Concierge falls in love with him .

This looks like melodrama ,but in fact ,it is treated as a musical with lots of song ("Par Gentillesse" "IL FAut Ce QU'Il FAut ",the alternate title of the movie,a lullaby and plenty of other ditties);in a dark hour such as 1940,it seems weird indeed,it has to be seen to be believed .The movie was out of time before its release after the war.

Interest lies in the actors:Pierre Larquey as the well-meaning godfather who does not want to be called " grandfather" and Jean Tissier as a registry office minor officer.Otherwise,it's a bit feeble.

NB director René Pujol died in 1942 and did not see the release of his film.

Hooray!iHooray! !t's a Holi-Holiday!, 26 September 2016

Robert Vernay is remembered for his two versions of "Le Comte De Monte-Cristo,in the forties in the occupation days,then in the fifties a remake in color .

Ces Sacrées Vacances (1956) is perfect Saturday-night-at -the- movie-for-the whole-family stuff:from that standpoint,it can be considered a satisfying movie.Art house cinema ,it is not.Full of implausibilities,but eventful ,never a dull moment with the Pinson (=chaffinch ) family.Colorful characters played by seasoned actors.

Pierre Détaille and Sophie Desmarets (and children) embody the fifties vacationists ,at a time you often have to rent a lousy car ;there was no speed limit then :most of the cars were "Deux Chevaux ","Quatre Chevaux,and anyway,we are told that the road safety administration lent their support to the director:who could ask for more?

Funny scenes :

-the breakdown and the garage where the transporter (Jean Tissier) who wish he had been a mechanic tries his best to repair the car.

-the picnic,during which the wife sets the pinewood on fire: the daughter proudly bragging: "we did start the fire!" ;the gendarme (Henri Génès ) making his report and carefully choosing the right words .

-the couple of crooks ,the would be friends ,who are actually hotel thieves;"let's play hide and seek" says the robber to the child when he sneaks into the bedroom by the window.

The American millionaire"s intervention (Jess Hahn) makes the end of the plot very obvious though.

WW2 was not far behind and mom hints at a bridge daddy prevented the Germans from crossing (it's not exactly true,in fact)

Besides,dad and mom want to set an example to their brats: so they are accidental arsonists ,their duty is to shoulder the entire responsibility for it.

People would not say they were looking on Vernay's side to open up new horizons in the cinematographic field of the FRench late fifties;but you would not deny yourself a good time ,would you?

Et Pourtant ... (La Loi De 1920), 24 September 2016

As Pierre Chevalier was famous first for his coarse comedies,then ,in the seventies,for his pornographic movies ,it was easy to relegate "Avortement Clandestin!"(illegal abortion ) to the sex movies ghetto;and however,people who are looking for a dirty flick will not get something out of it.A three-minute orgy depiction when the heroine is raped and that's it.

Sophie is a working-class girl ;she is still living with her mom who has still two children to raise (the father left home four years before);she's got a boyfriend and she lives in the nine-to-five routine.

After her rape,she becomes pregnant;it's 1973 and it would be two more years before the Loi Veil.Rich people can get away with it,going to England or to the Netherlands ,or paying high prices to doctors who abuses their position (the honest doctor tells her so).There is no other course left to a poor girl but to see a street abortionist (a Violette Nozières of the seventies)in 1973.The screenplay does not pass over in silence the power of money and a scene showing rich bourgeois would not have been out of place in a Chabrol's work.As ,the Gendarme says,Sophie and his mom (given away to the authorities by holier-than-thou gossips )are decent people ;and if Sophie's discharged ,her voice over reminds us of other girls' fate,less happy than hers.

Scenes show women marching on the streets ,and the legalization of abortion,thanks to a great political woman,Simone Veil,was a big victory for women's lib.

Like this? try these ....

"Violette Nozières" Claude Chabrol

"L'Amour Violé " Yannick Bellon

(only for highbrows) "Masculin -Feminin " (Godard)

Not dead ? Half-dead,more like., 24 September 2016

It was the first time Jean Bruce 's OSS 117 aka Hubert Bonnisseur De La Bath adventures had been transferred to the screen .

The plot is almost devoid of interest :it deals with thefts of secret documents and microfilms ;it seems that the safe in Mr Lead (sic)'s desirable mansion is not safe at all and that the Deuxième Bureau has been leaking.So begins the task for the best French secret spy and his female counterpart .The title "OSS N 'Est Pas Mort " is justified for the hero spends a good third of the film bedridden in a gloomy hospital where he pretends to be severely wounded after a car crash (sabotage).But he is presented with candied fruit (the box contains a small tape recorder ,smart,huh?)and pastries by sympathetic ladies.

This spy thriller is actually a whodunit: who,in Mr Lead 's house helps the villains get the stuff? Mr Lead? his wife? his daughter? his secretary?his servant?.One of the spies has his way with girls: he tells them nobody likes him,he is now a hunted man,and if she helps him ,he will take her away to the islands in the sun.

In the cast and credits ,the name of the actress who plays the OSS girl (hot Magali Noel )ppears before that of her male co-star;it may be a wise choice ,for Ivan Desny is a listless OSS ,and not handsome enough at that.Yves Vincent ,who created the part of Stanley Kowalsky in " a streetcar named desire" on stage in France ,tries his best with an underwritten (and almost ridiculous) part of the would be miserable spy .Marie Déa ("Les Visiteurs Du Soir" "PIèges" "Orphée" ) is wasted.

Any takers? Cheesecake all over the movie:scantily dressed ladies abound .

OSS 117 was not lucky in the movies: in the sixties,in the wake of James Bond ,six more movies -plus another one ,feat.Sean Flynn in which ,Bonnisseur De La Bath was renamed "Smith"- ,more entertaining ,but not particularly memorable.

It was the naughties before OSS 117 became a popular hero in the movies ,in the riotously funny spoofs featuring the excellent Jean Dujardin.

Mammy (1951)
Mommy, 23 September 2016

Jean Stelli was the melodrama past master;his "Voile Bleu " made sensitive people cry a river during the occupation days.

"Mammy" is a lovely film,half comedy,half thriller ,with a subject close of that of William Irish's ( aka Cornell Woolrich's ) "I married a dead man" .

It owes a big deal to its excellent actors foursome : the old ones (Pierre Larquey and Gaby Morlay ,the star of the before-mentioned occupation blockbuster) ,moving and endearing ,and the young ones (Philippe Lemaire and Françoise Arnoul ) ,both good-looking and playing with gusto.Pierre Laroche and Albert Valentin wrote spicy lines ,sometimes verging on black humor :that Valentin could not survive the liberation as a director was a major loss for the French cinema.

The movie begins with fire fighters cars coming to the rescue of two young lovers who have just committed suicide (it's actually a half- suicide ,for the girl turned on the gas unbeknownst to her boyfriend!);the lines do not lack black humor:

-What happened ?

-Nothing!two youngsters who gassed themselves!

-Nothing? Who pays the gas note?

A medical examiner whose wife is blind and could never get over her grandson's behavior who tried to steal from them and then exiled himself to Canada, has an idea: as the two young people are safe in the hospital ,he will pass them off as the grandson and wife:no sooner said than done .

Is the old lady fooled ? Anyway ,the so called newly weds -who do not get one very well and are both jealous- are welcomed in the desirable mansion where she gives them a superb bedroom (and tells them that a bed is not only made for sleeping and dying) .Very good scenes when the granny asks them to play the piano and tries to talk architecture with her grandson .

Unfortunately,when they were least expecting it,the "true" grandson reappears and he is short of the readies.

Even though the ending is too hurried for comfort ,it's a lovely movie,well written and well acted.

Dead singers society, 21 September 2016

It's delightfully old-fashioned,but it's full of Joie De Vivre and it's really much fun to watch!

This grammar school is really too good to be true :all the pupils are very nice,very polite but they have a tendency to favor jazz music over classical ,predating ,in their own modest way ,the sixties'youth ,when England reigned over the whole musical world .

Mr Dingle,wonderfully portrayed by John Mills ,is a teacher with whom we do need education.When the new headmaster arrives ,none of his colleagues support him ,not even the gym teacher (and however his subject is not considered a serious one either). In the next decade,Dingle would have embraced the Beatles without a moment's hesitation.He's not only a teacher ,he is also the confidant (wait for the "flash"),and ,even without their instruments ,his class can play infectious music -in an extremely well-directed scene.

Imitating the beginning of the French Revolution,the students after a "singing strike" and a conspiracy of silence ,lock themselves in the gym to support their teacher who has been unfairly dismissed (and has become the toast of the local pub).

Plenty of fun with Mr Dingle!

How to tell a saint's life (or how to cut an orange), 20 September 2016

This is a short which deals with the preparation of Alain Cavalier 's last mainstream movie "Thérèse" ,with depicts the life of the famous saint of Lisieux.We only see the director's hands .

It begins with a white sheet of paper which may represents the screen or the place where the director is going to write his script or draw important scenes of his future effort:like Hitchcock and Clouzot,we learn that Cavalier uses storyboards .He displays a series of photographs (taken by Therese's sister,who was also a nun) which spans the whole life of the saint ,from her vows to her deathbed ;the last picture shows a face of a suffering woman (tuberculosis ;a mortal disease in Therese's time);he reads some of Therese's words about God and the meaning of agony -nothing to relieve the excruciating pain).He shows us a model of a nun's cell (3x3 meters);we feel that the director wanted to put a lot into his work.

His movie was greeted by sympathetic reviews and proves successful with the audience: the Bressonesque treatment was utterly uncompromising but the saint's popularity was a strong hook.

Tamed lions, 19 September 2016

With a writer such as Audiard and five talented stars ,you should not be wrong.However ,today ,Verneuil's movie sounds as unfunny Théatre De Boulevard .

A young girl from the Province,who just broke with her husband,comes to Paris to find her soul mate ;we follow her as she meets a trendy writer ,who wins the Femina literary prize by writing his new novel based on her character,then a grumpy surgeon who wants to take care of her health.All takes place in very chic places ,luxury flats,homes in the country ,and the whole shebang.

This is an exceptionally poor screenplay based on a novel by Nicole(?),a subject Audiard does not seem to find inspiring:in this posh milieu ,he simply cannot write these lines which generally hit home .Danielle Darrieux is a wonderful actress and it's the first time I've found her really bad,overplaying all over the place .Lino Ventura is miscast as the doctor :not surprising,he is self- conscious .Michèle Morgan and Jean-Claude Brialy ,as the wealthy confidant and the smug impotent novelist seem to be bored to death . As for Claudia Cardinale,I confirm that it's her voice we hear in the movie,but her part is conventional (see the bourgeois happy end,told by Morgan's voice over).

And Darrieux 's son is Marxist ,to boot!As she says ": "it's the fall of the house of Usher"!

Rousseau's busy day, 18 September 2016

Four comments on a movie which has fallen into oblivion in its native country; among the four -positive,quite rightly so- reviews,no one comes from Trintignant's land .

The first of the two movies the famous actor has directed (for the record,the second is "Le Maître Nageur " ) the movie belongs to the handful of works which goes off the beaten track ,a thousand miles away from the French seventies film scene.

The subject is close to that of Douglas Hickox's "theater of blood" (released the same year,coincidence)in which Denis Price and his daughter( Diana Rigg )slew all the panel of judges who had refused to give the actor the award ,imitating Shakespeare's tragedies

Shakespeare is also present in Trintignant's work ;the actor/director appears himself in a cameo :he directs "Hamlet" and delivers this excellent line" You don't make an "Hamlet" without breaking eggs" ,in French of course ,for the French language uses the same expression.

But "Une Journée Bien Remplie " is given a very different treatment,sometimes amateurish,sometimes self-conscious ,but never "politically correct" -and with his gruesome farce,it may be possible that Trintignant wanted to express his disgust for death penalty and the "right" some people have to send their fellow men to the guillotine -one must remember that death penalty was abolished by François Mitterrand in 1981- .And the "A Suivre" (= to be continued) of the final cast and credits might indicate that grandpa is ready to take over from the baker (and not for bread and croissants).

The absence of star may explain the complete commercial failure of the effort;nevertheless Jacques Dufilho is well known over here: a stage actor,he was almost always given supporting parts ( in a career which spans four decades)for his physical appearance is not what you call bankable.In the only film in which he plays the lead,he looks so much the part I do not really know who else Trintignant could have cast in the part of this deadpan cynical dispenser of justice ;dressed in black, in a black motorcycle and sidecar ,almost always silent ,in a movie which is half silent anyway.Editing is often disturbing, Trintignant often denies his audience the suspense and if he depicts the murder in the hospital in lavish details,some of them are told by the radio -and we can appreciate the brilliant superintendent 's deductive reasoning ! The director even allows himself ,when the murderer listen to the radio ,to announce :"the track you've just heard is taken from the "Une Journée Bien Remplie" movie score " ;the black humor is constant:" Five at noon! says grandpa,you're on schedule!"

Noblesse Oblige ! (kind hearts and coronets)

Hush hush sweet Laura., 18 September 2016

As a very big fan of Mrs De Havilland ,it was a great pleasure for me to see her with her old partner in crime Joseph Cotten (some will remember "hush hush sweet Charlotte" ),even though the latter has a too brief appearance.

Ray Bradbury 's short story was modified and her heroine ,a young girl named Margaret ,was replaced by an older lady ,Laura.Actually the story recalls that of William Irish aka Cornell Woolrich ,"fire escape" (transferred to the screen as " the boy who cried wolf" ) in which a little boy told imaginary stories till a true crime happens.....just as the sheriff and his deputy do not believe that old bat who sees prowlers everywhere ...and who do not want "riffraff " around -the short scene where the "commoner" tells her :"you made my day,no you made my week" is worth the price of admission -

Jack Smight succeeds in confusing the viewer: is Laura a lunatic? (after all,she forgot that the greenhouse was destroyed by fire)has she really discovered a buried alive woman ? Or has she been framed by her daughter-in-law who covets her money and would like her to be considered irresponsible ?As cousin Olivia and her old beau Joseph wanted to do pitiful Davis/Charlotte away from her valuable property in "hush hush sweet Charlotte" .

De Havilland and Cotten met again in "airport' 77" but the movie was a spate of clichés and they were given poor parts.

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