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A shimmering glass hotel at the top of a remote Provençal mountain provides the setting for a tragicomic tapestry about an obsessive love pentangle, whose principals range from an artist to a hotel manager to a dam worker. Scripted by Jacques Prévert and Pierre Laroche, the film was banned from theaters for the duration of the occupation for its dark portrayal of the hedonistic excesses of the ruling class. Today, it is often singled out as Jean Grémillon's greatest achievement.Written by
"Lumière d'Ete " is probably Grémillon's most ambitious work.Made during the Occupation days,many people consider it his best.One should add it's also his less accessible.
Although it's a Prévert/Laroche screenplay ,the main influence here is Renoir's .All that concerns Paul Bernard's character and his fete in the castle strongly recalls "La Règle du Jeu" .Probably the center of gravity of the movie ,this memorable sequence of the farandole - while the tragedy is impending- will find an equivalent in Prévert/Carné's ending of "Les Enfants Du Paradis".
There are only five characters :three men and two women.
Cri-Cri (Madeleine Renaud,Grémillon's favorite actress) ,her lover Patrice and a failed painter (Pierre Brasseur) represent the bourgeois society.
Michèle (Madeleine Robinson) and Julien(Georges Marchal) are the working class heroes .The latter thoroughly deserves this name,in every sense of the term.
Patrice is a perverse man with a racy -and even criminal- past who does not love Cri-Cri anymore :did he ever love her anyway? or was he just pretending because she knew too many bad things about him?A man of leisure,he invites Roland (the artist) in his castle just because he desires his partner Michele .
In direct contrast to that ,we have the working men: they are building a dam and they are useful.And they are here when it comes to lend a helping hand .
There's a good use of the "play in the play " trick;During the costume ball,Roland is disguised as Hamlet ,which makes sense.Apart from Shakespeare, Laroche and Prevert hint at French writer Comtesse de Ségur,since Cri-Cri's hotel is called "L'Ange Gardien" (The guardian angel) and one of the guests thinks of dressing up as General Dourakine .
For all its qualities,"Lumière d'Eté " is less appealing than "Pattes Blanches" where Paul Bernard plays a squire again : the first third of the 1943 work drags on a bit and may put off some viewers.Nonetheless,it is essential viewing for anyone interested in the French cinema.
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