Lumière d'été (1943) Poster

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dbdumonteil11 March 2007
"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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Strange, strong piece of art
leoperu22 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"Lumiere d'été" comes close to some works of Grémillon's countrymen such as Renoir or Carné, but is peculiar in more than one way - for example in blending Chekhovian romantic-existential ensemble drama with an ode to common man's hard work (yet, to this viewer, in a setting that resembles rather some kind of inferno than a collectivist paradise), and grafting standard trash-romantic happy end for the most improbable couple. Some interesting music/sound escapades are to be appreciated as well as the long thrilling faux-finale (the castle ball followed by the frantic night drive).

The only flaw of the Criterion "Eclipse Series 34" package is the lack of bonus features. Never mind - it's the movie that counts.
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Summer Lightning
writers_reign16 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
A cynic with a little culture under his belt may be tempted to dismiss this as Idiot's Delight With Spin but to do so is to reveal a shallowness not lacking in the film. Robert E Sherwood enjoyed a success with his play, Idiot's Delight, the subsequent movie adaptation was ho hum at best and several decades later the Broadway Musical version, Dance A Little Closer, was a disaster. Sherwood focused on a disparate group of people holed up in a mountain inn on the eve of World War II. Jacques Prevert's screenplay focuses on a disparate group of people holed up in a mountain hotel smack dab in the middle (1943) of that same world war yet of hostilities there is nary a mention. This was the third movie in which Gremillon featured his favourite actress Madeleine Renaud and he would do so yet again in La Ciel est a vous - and in passing coax a career-best performance out of Charles Vanel - and it's easy to see why he was so enamoured of her. Virtually forgotten today - much like the other Madeleine (Robinson) in the film - she was among the finest of an exceptionally fine generation of French actresses and she scores heavily here as a discarded mistress running a hotel in a remote mountain region. In a role written for Michele Morgan Madeleine Robinson offers strong support as a young lover, also rejected by Pierre Brasseur's troubled artist, who represents hope for the future in her new romance with a young engineer. All the values are sound, top writer, top director, top actors (Brasseuer, Renaud, Robinson) and make this an unfairly neglected minor masterpiece.
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Good in parts
allenrogerj21 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Interesting, but it doesn't hold together. The big problem is the characterisation of the three central men- Patrice, a dissolute aristo, Roland, a dissolute artist (or pss-artist) and Julien, an heroic engineer, all in love with Michele. Both Patrice and Roland would be interesting central characters for films but we know too little about what makes them what they are to be very interested or convinced by them. Roland isn't convincing as the drunk veering between pride in his genius and fears that he has no talent. Equally, Michele, the female lead, is well-acted, but finally she is only there as an object of desire and her supposed obsessive passion for Roland doesn't have much conviction and there is something schematic about the way she is finally paired off with Julien, the "real man" of the trio. Above all, though, it is the plot, preposterous and melodramatic, which fails to convince. In Les Regles Du Jeu the plot derives logically from the characters; here, from the start- even from before the start- Patrice's murder of his wife and his installation of Cri-Cri, his mistress and accomplice, as local hotel manager- Michele and Roland going to a remote mountain hotel for no very good reason, Patrice's invitation to Roland and Michele to move into and decorate his château and Roland's acceptance are too obviously plot devices- unfortunately, because the scenes where Patrics lures Roland into drunkenness and self-destruction are well-done and effective when we accept them, convincing portraits of malice and despair and the desperate Roland at the party is at last a convincing, tragic and funny character. The end too is yet more preposterous- that the other passengers will allow the drunk and gibbering Roland to drive a car is an obvious plot-device, but then the conveniently well-timed accident ("twenty five dead") which enables Julien to do his heroic bit while Patrice sets out to shoot him with a rifle ostentatiously positioned for just that purpose right at the start of the film is an arbitrary absurdity too many.

On the credit side, there are fine performances, the early scenes between Patrice and Cri-Cri, tied together by memory, guilt and emotion are superbly done- so much so that they emphasise the absurdity of other parts of the film- the actors do their best with contradictory parts, there is fine photography- the landscape of the dam is well-depicted and the party is wonderfully shot- and the music is well-handled throughout- especially a deranged reel on a fiddle that accompanies Roland's crazed drive down the mountain which- except at the end- is very convincing for when the film was made.
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My kind of strange
A real strange one this, pretty flabbergasting even. A load of Frenchies high up in a mountaintop hotel, the neighbouring castle and dam project behave like lunatics. Superb light relief from Marcel Lévesque as Monsieur Louis, the hotel dogsbody who finds everything that happens just as quizzical as I did. An immensely contrived plot seems to have been contrived absolutely apropos of nothing, a bit like Ayn Rand without an agenda. Often compared to Renoir's Rules of the Game, somewhat to my mystification, as it's severely lacking in existential resonance by comparison and nowhere near as seamless. There's a huge deficit in chemistry in all the many romantic connections. The sheer weirdness of it is however utterly compelling. Many symbolic moments occur, but are hard to nail to their objects. Two of the men at one point discuss going fishing, the first points out that equipment is not necessary as the trout sleep under rocks in the stream at one place and can be caught by hand. Allegorical of the rather quick and humiliating capitulation of France (the film was shot during the reign of the Vichy government)? Anyone's guess. A whole bagful of mad.
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Class Warfare
gavin694221 December 2016
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.

What I love about this film is how it captures the French obsession with class. Karl Marx was German, but you never hear about class distinctions in Germany. Marx's ideas carried over to Russia (in a perverted form), but class there was more striking, peasants against everyone else. It was the French who made it an art form. The word "bourgeois" is French for a reason, because no other country has the distinction they do.

Here we see what happens if class -- and the competitive nature between classes -- is a part of a romantic triangle (or, as the description says, a pentangle). This makes for some interesting dynamics and political commentary. And all while France was in the middle of a much more serious conflict.
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