Shortly after WWII, flashbacks tell the story of Marise, her husband Paul, and Jean, who was imprisoned with Paul in a German camp. While attempting to escape from the camp Paul is shot, ...
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Shortly after WWII, flashbacks tell the story of Marise, her husband Paul, and Jean, who was imprisoned with Paul in a German camp. While attempting to escape from the camp Paul is shot, and Jean goes to see Marise, confirming the news she had gotten already about Paul's death. Jean has fallen in love with Marise through the stories Paul told him, and wants to stay with her in the seaside town in Brittany where Paul owned a small business.Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It is emblematic of the loss of imagination and the draining of talent of the studio system in the late forties when confronted with the genius of European productions of the same time, especially Italian neo-realism.
To begin with, the subject is extremely derivative. It is based on a German play that had already been made into a successful film in 1928 in Germany. This play was inspired, like a whole family of plays and films of the era, by a real event that took place in Italy in the 20's (the Bruneri-Canella case). This case also inspired the 1938 French film "Carrefour" (set in France and remade in Hollywood as "Crossroads"). This French film was later remade in England in 1940 as "Dead Man's Shoes". The same story inspired Pirandello's "As You Desire Me", set in Italy, in the late 20's, which became a Greta Garbo vehicle in the 30's, as well as the novel "The Wife of Martin Guerre" by American writer Janet Lewis (1941), a story set in France in the Middle Ages, which became the French film "The Return of Martin Guerre" (Daniel Vigne, 1982), which was of course remade as a Hollywood film starring Richard Gere, "Sommersby" (Jon Amiel, 1993) and set after the US Civil War. The same Italian story also inspired Edward Wool's 1935 play "Libel!" (filmed in 1959 in England), which has several similarities with the classic film "Random Harvest" (1942).
As if the story was not tired enough, the big mistake was to transpose a German play about the aftermath of the First World War in a post-WWII French Brittany setting - filmed on the back lot - that just doesn't gel. The sets appear to be the ones used for the South of France in "Song of Bernadette" and the music by (the ordinarily trustworthy) Herbert Stothart is unconvincing in its attempt to convey any real sense of France or Brittany. Everything in the art direction is stilted and false. Its un-Frenchness is almost frightening. The viewer may get an occasional glimpse of O'Neil, Strindberg, Ibsen, Murnau and Rossellini, but never, never of a French fishing village.
The subject and acting try very hard to reconnect the story to some sense of lustful reality while channelling something of the drama and realism of European serious cinema. But they fail. Imagining Robert Mitchum and Greer Garson as a French fisherman and his wife is simply an exercise quite beyond anyone's powers of self-deception.
The end result is a cumbersome imitation of European simplicity with misfiring Hollywood production values, an embarrassingly stodgy melodrama that tries very hard to be a thoughtful little art film. It stinks and it sinks and it will forever remain as an example of one of the first signs of decadence of Hollywood's golden era.
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