A bargeman, his wife and sister-in-law navigate the canals of northern Belgium in their two vessels, the eponymous "L'Hirondelle et la Mésange," taking the time to appreciate the sites and ...
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A bargeman, his wife and sister-in-law navigate the canals of northern Belgium in their two vessels, the eponymous "L'Hirondelle et la Mésange," taking the time to appreciate the sites and landscapes they encounter along their way. Like many in his trade, the mariner supplements his income by transporting occasional contraband. The tranquil rhythms of their nautical lives are interrupted, however, when they hire an ambitious new pilot.Written by
Nearly fifteen years after this film was made Jean Vigo put the 'canal film' firmly on the map with his classic 'L'Atalante'; a genre to which the British have also occasionally returned with the likes of Charles Crichton's 'Painted Boats' (1945) and Duncan Wood's 'The Bargee' (1964), with Harry H. Corbett.
Theatre director André Antoine takes us on a picturesque travelogue taking in views of Antwerp and Ghent at a leisurely pace, as a narrative gradually develops when a young man (Pierre Alcover) joins the crew with whom we anticipate a romance to blossom with the pretty and unattached sister-in-law Griet (Jane Maylianes). But in a remarkably early screen acknowledgement of the fatal allure of the older woman, his eye falls instead on his employer's wife Marthe (Maguy Deliac), and trouble looms.
The pace so far has been as measured as that of the two barges themselves. But suddenly, as if abruptly required by producer Charles Pathé to pack a sense of urgency hitherto entirely lacking into the fifteen minutes remaining to him, director Antoine ends the film with a frenetic burst of activity and then abruptly stops; as if he's used up his allotted time.
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