Roland Brissot bought for a nickel a talisman that gives him love, fame and wealth. The talisman is a cut left hand, and it works perfectly. But of course there is nothing free in this ...
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After serving in the trenches of World War I, Jean Diaz recoils with such horror that he renounces love and personal pleasure to immerse himself in scientific research, seeking a machine to... See full summary »
Six friends promise to share their fortune in 5 years. The moment is very close, but one of the six is mysteriously murdered, then another... Superintendent Wenceslas Woroboyioetschik (aka ... See full summary »
Denis is distracted: he's studying all day for philosophy exams and working all night at the flower market; plus, whenever he closes his eyes, he dreams of a mysterious woman in white. His ... See full summary »
Roland Brissot bought for a nickel a talisman that gives him love, fame and wealth. The talisman is a cut left hand, and it works perfectly. But of course there is nothing free in this world, and after one year the devil comes and asks for his due...Written by
A few years ago I was attracted to the work of French filmmaker Maurice Tourneur, after reading his IMDb profile. I already knew that his film «La main du diable» had a cult following, and that he was the father of Jacques Tourneur, the famous director of «Cat People», «I Walked with a Zombie» and «Out of the Past»; but I had no idea of his own prestige and importance in the history of cinema. During the silent film period, Maurice Tourneur was as popular as David W. Griffith and Thomas Harper Ince in Hollywood, and his movies had a strong influence due to their visual design refinement. I am yet to see his version of James Fenimore Cooper's «Last of the Mohicans» (1920), selected to the National Film Registry by the US Congress, but I have already seen his adaptations of Maurice Maeterlinck's «The Blue Bird» (also selected to the National Film Registry), and Joseph Conrad's «Victory» (1919). I have just finished watching «La main du diable», a French production made during the last stage of his career, when Tourneur returned to France, tired of the commercialism of the Hollywood films. Connections are often made between Nazi occupation in France and certain films that are or seem to be allegories of this state, as Carné's «Les visiteurs du soir» (1942), or Clouzot's «Le corbeau» (1943), so I would not be surprised if there is an essay linking «La main du diable» to Nazi presence in French territory. If it's true that this reading is possible, the film is fascinating if one takes it as it is, a moral tale with elements of fantasy and subtle horror: in an Alpine hotel, the dull confinement of a group of travelers that are trapped by an avalanche, brightens up with the sudden arrival of a nervous man, with a stump and a small box under his arm. After the box is stolen during a blackout, the travelers become a captive audience (as we, the spectators), listening to the man as he tell his story, from being a luckless painter, to buying a sinister talisman that brings him fame, love and fortune, and being cheated by the devil. The story of course is similar to other cinematic pacts with the devil, as those made by Faust, the Prague student, Jabez Stone in «The Devil and Daniel Webster», the phantom of the Paradise, the investigator in «Angel Heart» or the young lawyer in «The Devil's Advocate», among others. But Tourneur, as Murnau in his «Faust», fascinates us with his visual reading of Gérard Nerval's novel, and creates a glowing monochromatic world of oblique lines, shadows, masks, and an affable little devil, played by a smiling old man who, behind the appearance of a helpless civil servant, hides his treacherous essence. The film is a well-mounted clockwork that reaches its expected conclusion with the same punctuality the devil demands of his creditors. If by chance it crosses your path, don't miss «La main du diable», a work that only asks for 78 minutes of your time.
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