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Strange that nobody in France has yet reviewed this little comedy;it
was made by Jérôme Enrico ,Robert's son (who directed some memorable
works such as "Au Cur De La Vie" and "Les Aventuriers").
One of Bernadette Lafont's last parts ,she really shines in her portrayal of an embittered (and shameless) retired woman ,who has only got 600 Euros per month to live ;that's not a minor detail:a lot of retired people do not have enough to live in France and the charity organizations are currently working overtime (The Restaurants Du Cur have seen their number raise by 10% this year.)
Paulette is too proud to beg!during the cast and credits ,we see the story of her life and how she lost her restaurant which (infamy!) fell into aliens' hands!A catholic ,she often goes to confession-and the priest is a black man ,another sign of the times!-.She is at odds with her daughter ,who married a black cop,and she despises her charming little Grandson she calls "Bamboula"(offensive racist term ).
By chance,she discovers that drugs mean a lot of dough;so why not becoming a new dealer in town? "The police would never suspect an old lady " she says to the local big shot called Vito;but the young dealers around do not like unfair competition and they tell her so. So she's got to find a new way to sell her stuff:unintentionally ,her adorable grandson will give her the solution to all her problems ;besides she is a fine pastry cook....
As a poor honest woman ,she was nasty and hateful;the more illegal she gets ,the more human she becomes;gone is her racism ;a redemption tale indeed,morally and physically :the ugly old lady is transformed into a coquette still fine-looking woman.
Although the movie loses steam after the casino episode ,it's Reductio Ad Absurdum that evil can spawn good and even help ....fix the roof of the Church.
Based on Louise De Bettignies's and one of her mates Leonie Vanhoutte's
lives during WW1,when they were spies -the movie refuses this
pejorative appellation-in the service of their homeland .
It was actually made to stir patriotic feelings ,like many other propaganda movies,in the years just before WW2;The first part of the movie is dull,monotonous,beginning with a four-minute lecture on this northern Joan of Arc ;directing is flat,and the characters are uninteresting.
Things go a little better in the third part (the movie is divided into three chapters "serving" "suffering" and "dying" )when the two actresses ,Jeanne Sully and Josette Day (who would be La Belle in Cocteau's classic) have some moving scenes together.
Probably made to capitalize on the success of Christian-Jaque's "La
Tulipe Noire" ,which was also a so-called Dumas adaptation and which
also ended when the French Revolution began ;Jacques Perrin is pleasant
as a reluctant hero,who,in the beginning of his new "career" ,runs THE
operations from a distance.A historic figure (Le Comte D'Artois,Louis
the Sixteenth 's brother) appears to help the villain but the scene in
Versailles is ludicrous.
As Perrin is no match for Belmondo or Marais,as far as amazing feats are concerned,he makes up for hit with a good sense of humor.The historical background is vague and thin,but why denying yourself an entertaining little swashbuckler?
Monsieur Martin's nickname ,"Pipelet" ,is taken from Eugène Sue's
mammoth novel "Les Mystères De Paris;"Pipelet" has become a common name
for the "Concierges",a very frequent job at the time .
André Hunebelle was not what they call "an auteur" :he used to see which way the Wind blew and made gentle comedies (like this one) ,sword and sandal movies and spy thrillers,depending on the taste of the era .
Michel Simon was,as usual ,perfect as the lead :although his daughter has just got her Baccalauréat -which,at the time,was something !- ,he always enjoys using slang with one of the tenants ,a would be "writer" ,maybe a nod to his old part in "Fric Frac " ;otherwise,I think that his then-co-star Arletty would have made a much better wife than sluggish Gaby Morlay ,who is too distinguished to play a woman of the people successfully.
This is more a succession of daily life vignettes than a real screenplay;the love affair between the Concierge's daughter and the owner of the house (a self made man who has become the king of canned peas)does not take more than 20 minutes in the whole film.
There are some interesting lines:"Why should we call him "Monsieur Richet" whereas he calls us "My good fellow"? "So princes don't marry Shepherd girls? Who do you think you are?the king of canned peas whose father was a greengrocer!would you call your son a prince?" Louis De Funès is cast as Simon's brother-in-law but he already has a tendency to overplay;Louis Velle would become famous in the early seventies thanks to "La Demoiselle D'Avignon" TV series .
It's an old-fashioned movie,but it shows the little world of men and women of the people in the mid-fifties.
Made to capitalize on the huge success of "Michel Strogoff" (1956)
,this not bad sequel owes nothing to Jules Verne but the hero's proper
noun .Exit Nadia (who ,however ,did marry Michel at the end of the
first film and the novel)who is not even mentioned .
Actually the screenplay bears a distant resemblance to Hathaway's "lives of a Bengal lancer": the inexperienced young officer (Pierre Massimi ,whose part resembles that of Richard Cromwell in the 1935 classic), the tough but wise guy (Strogoff ,played by Curd Jurgends ,wo,like Gary Cooper,comes to his rescue),the attractive deceitful mysterious lady (Capucine ).....
It's an action-packed sequel and it features enough twists to sustain interest till the ending;for a sequel,that's still good value.
Although Verne's famous novel has been filmed many many times,this one
made number one at the 1956 French box office ;it was so commercially
successful that a sequel was made afterward.
Okay ,Curd Jurgends (41) is too old for the part of the dashing young officer but he is efficient and handsome and he and Genevieve Page make a nice pair.You can notice other lovely actresses in supporting parts:Sylva Koscina ,the sword and sandal queen ,and Françoise Fabian ,who would turn into a rather intellectual thespian as the years went passing by .Sylvie ,a seasoned actress ,appears as Marfa Strogoff.
The screenplay is faithful to the novel,including the famous scene of torture with the red-hot iron .
Gallone's effort thoroughly deserved its success ;it was made for the whole family and can,from that point of view,be considered good Entertainment.
Although the movie features such luminaries as Jeanne Moreau,Michel
Bouquet and Madeleine Renaud ,it failed commercially and even the three
actors' fans do not even know the existence of "L'Humeur Vagabonde" .
Not exactly a mainstream work ,the movie can be seen as an in-communicability metaphor ,which the final lines of movie tend to reinforce .The clueless young hero (played by an actor who was to remain unknown)is easy to identify with for the viewer as he hangs around the Streets of Paris,meeting people holding conversations which always remain incomplete or deceptive : almost all the male parts are played by Bouquet;Simon and Garfunkel' s "sounds of silence" in "Alice in wonderland".A curio.
Ambitious ,not always palatable for the mainstream audience (hence the
commercial failure),"En Haut Des Marches" is a demanding work and one
of Danielle Darrieux's most interesting parts (and she starred in many
Suzanne's husband was a collaborator during WW2 and he was turned in by his own family at the Liberation ,a family who took advantage of him during the dark days of the occupation.
In 1963,the lady comes back to Toulon after years of exile ;then begins a long walk in space and time ,in which she remembers (no flashbacks,but De Gaulle's and Pétain's speeches ,a class where she used to be a schoolteacher and where she had to teach the "moral doctrine " of the Marechal..).
Imaginary events run into each others and into reality: she kills her family to avenge her husband and there is a questioning by a detective and a trial during which she is defended by her goddaughter (and former pupil).These scenes are the most convincing in the whole movie,and all their conversations always come up against the same question:"what could I do?I did not know about the concentration camps ,the final solution...."And although she does not utter these worlds we feel that Suzanne is about to shout :"you can't understand ,even with your history books,you were not in my shoes at THAT time ,and it's easy to live a politically correct lawyer's life!"
Influenced by early Alain Resnis,Paul Vecchiali opts for a fragmented narration which might repel some viewers ;but those who will accompany Darrieux in her strange trip will be rewarded.
After a brilliant period,which spawned some of the best works of the
post -war era ("Dédée D'Anvers"," Une Si Jolie Petite Plage" ,the very
noir " Manèges" ,arguably his towering achievement),Allégret fell
quickly.After "Les Orgueilleux" ,his last valuable effort,all that he
produced was mediocre at best ,abysmal at worst.
This one falls in the second category :good actors totally wasted (Robert Hossein,a prince of French film noir,and Italian beauty Antonella Lualdi) Based on a James Hadley chase 's novel ,it is a patchy inconsistent story of gangsters war ,hookers ,desperately trying to sound American ,but failing totally to convince.
Raymond Rouleau was essentially a stage director ,but ha also played in
several interesting movies,Becker's "Falbalas" being the most notable.
"Le Messager " was already his fifth effort ,but it was 1956 ,20 years later,before he made another one,his most famous one, "Les Sorcières De Salem",Arthur Miller's celebrated play ,which he directed first on stage with the same actors (Signoret,Montand).
"Le Messager" takes place in the bush,but was entirely filmed in a studio;it suffers accordingly.
A love triangle :Gabin,,Gaby Morlay and Jean-Pierre Aumont ,the romantic male lead of the era. The love story is undistinguished;the best scenes are to be found in the Africa segment where Aumont falls in love with his mate's wife he has never seen.The moment when the young lad hears her voice ,coming from nowhere ,climaxes the movie.In this atmosphere of intense heat,fever and frustration,it really makes sense.
Coming at a time when the French cinema went from strength to strength,"Le Messager" fell into oblivion ,but might possess considerable appeal for Gabin's buffs.
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