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Every country has its peculiarities ( Germans like dark atmosphere, Japanese like trains and Britons like tea ), so consequently these were reflected in their old silent pictures; with the French, it's rivers and barges. This led to a kind of subgenre in that country, the "barge films" of which there are excellent examples during the 20s.
"Une Femme A Passé" ( A Woman Passed By ) (1928) is the sort of picture this Herr Graf is talking about; this was Herr René Jayet's first feature length film. He's an absolutely unknown French director for this German count but his debut is a brilliant exercise of film style with impressive technical accomplishments wherein can be found many movie references from other directors. These artistic quotes transform Herr Jayet's work in a very remarkable way.
The film tells the story of Frau Concha ( Frau Suzanne Talba ) a femme fatale or as the story points out, a "fille perdue", a lost girl who has no feelings or scruples, toying with men as she pleases. These are the kind of wicked girls that usually are invited to enjoy the soirées at the Schloss. She is without mercy, respect or loyalty and Frau Suzanne Talba is just great in the role and performs it in a unique way.
Frau Concha dances in "La Féria" a dive typical of those dens of iniquity popular in France, full of smoke, alcohol and Frenchified outcasts. It's here where Frau Concha will meet Herr Jean-Marie Grignard ( Herr Camille Bardou ), the owner of a barge that periodically sails up the canal of the river. The fact that's he is a morally upright person causes Concha to despise him. But later on and due to a violent incident at the dance café ( what would such places be without a fight once in a while?... ) Frau Concha will need his help, accepting his offer to live on the barge with him. On the barge also works Herr Pierre ( Herr Jean Gerrard ), adopted as a child by Herr Grignard, and Frau Gertrude ( Frau Gaby Dary ), the servant. Pretty soon problems will appear due to Frau Concha's wild nature bursting out in this closed environment.
Herr Jayet depicts brilliantly the conflicts that inevitably will arise when Concha is around at any place, at the café, in the barge or later on at the Hotel Trianon. He creates a tense atmosphere, especially in the closing scenes wherein Frau Concha's disquieting eroticism drives the men aboard crazy, The editing and use of close-ups is particularly effective here and meshes well with the natural images of the river and its surroundings. The combination of realism with an atmosphere both oppressive and erotic gives the film a strange beauty as the woman without pity passes through the lives of the other characters, leaving behind bitterness and broken hearts.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must catch up with Frau Concha.
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