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The ABC Murders: Episode #1.3 (2018)
Season 1, Episode 3
14 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This last episode may seem a little muddled , but Phelps found a good way of revealing the truth without using interminable questionings and explanations ;Many people complained about captain Hastings 's absence ,but the story takes place when Poirot was retired ,so his mate had been married (and away) for a long time ; the novel ,using now the narrator,now Hasting's personal narrative,was simplified but the whodunit is faithful like a dog to the book : as usual , Mrs Christie was a past master in the art of using wrong tracks ,red herrings ; one can wonder ,one more time whether the screenwriter made Mr Cust a terminally-ill person,with so much gore.

Poirot's past gets in the way : although we have been given clues all along the movie (the private eye praying Virgin Mary, his impossibility to confess,thus to receive communion) ,if you are to accept the explanation, your disbelief has to be suspended ! Poirot's former occupation would make Mrs Christie turn in her grave .The church in fire might have been inspired by the horrible event which took place in Oradour-Sur-Glane ,France , 1944.These flashbacks are the worst thing (in every sense of the term) in the whole miniseries.

All in all , the miniseries did not deserve catcalls ; in fact , if we do not count Poirot's far-fetched memories ,it succeeds measurably well .Christie's readers are not used to this murky lugubrious atmosphere ;gone are the bonhomie, the conceit and the good humor of their hero who is an aging bitter man whose final triumph does not even seem to bring him solace .Now ,Mrs Phelps , the time is ripe for Poirot's ultimate investigation,told in "curtain" ...
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The ABC Murders: Episode #1.2 (2018)
Season 1, Episode 2
14 May 2019
In this episode ,the Christie's fan (I'm part of them , I read all her books)is on home ground again ."I'm the code" says Poirot who has discovered that the murders will take place according to a plan ;it shows how Dame Christie was ahead of her time ;in the nineties ,such great thrillers such as "seven " followed suit:the deadly sins replacing the alphabetical order ,but it does not make a big difference ;countless followers tackled the serial killer who follows a certain rule which the English writer had more or less invented (even more brillantly in " and then there were none" ,the plot of which has been so often imitated in screenplays .)

Miss Phelps tried to integrate a contemporary feel in her screenplay ;so she included many scenes which display hatred against those immigrants "who breed like rabbits" ; in "the mysterious affair of Stiles " ,Poirot was a refugee ,but he became quickly the toast of the country and was proud to be Belgian : Mrs Christie's use of French was delightful and far superior to,say, that of Mrs Rendell .

Directing is nervy and effective : there's a good use of these steam train -the train fascinated the writer ,which spawned many great works such as "murder on the orient express"- and of those dark parts of town where you 're not supposed to venture after dark.

The B and the C affairs are a little muddled ,and viewers not familiar with the novel may sometimes get lost among these characters ;besides Poirot's past ,which seems to haunt him like a curse , shows up from time to time as confusing flashbacks.
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The ABC Murders: Episode #1.1 (2018)
Season 1, Episode 1
14 May 2019
Sarah Phelps wrote the screenplay of the brilliant adaptation of "and then there were none" , three years ago;although sometimes overblown (a lesbian, a cocaine party) ,it was the first time ,with the exception of the 1982 Russian version,that the world all-time best seller murder mystery had been based on the novel (and not the play) and thus had thoroughly justified its title -which,as anybody knows ,was not the original title .So we could expect much of her treatment of "the ABC murders ", one of the best Christie works.

My feelings are mixed ;the cinematography is splendid indeed and offers a wonderful vision of England of the thirties ; the Poirot we meet is not the middle-age refugee of "Stiles" but almost the aging one of "curtain" ;some prefer David Suchet or Peter Ustinov as Poirot ,but in this gloomy atmosphere,why not John Malkovich?Both Suchet and Ustinov has /had too much joie de vivre and were too bons vivants to fit the bill in this context.

Mister Alexander-Bonaparte (no foreign name in our country) is smartly introduced ,but one can wonder why Mrs Phelps made him a sick terminally-man whereas a mere sexually-repressed character would have done the trick;one can understand Japp's hatred ,but why is he dead and replaced by a jealous hateful ill-tempered little runt?

The first murder retains a certain sense of suspense but Phelps's defects begin to appear:why a connection with Poirot's past ?

Christie's books are hard to transfer to the screen because they are not generally action-packed ; a "seven " ("seven" had "and then there were none " echoes anyway )treatment, in several respects , was not such a bad idea.
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Strange Fate (1946)
Simple twists of fate
12 May 2019
Obscure extravaganza which has sunk into oblivion.

Two things to remember : 1°You're very fond of melodramas.

2°Your disbelief needs to be suspended firmly if you are to get anything out of this 1946 movie.

A born silver spoon in hand snub girl (Renée Saint -Cyr) was always told (by his godfather ,a leading light in the medical world ,who brought her up after her dad's death)that there were two worlds :"our" world that is to say the world of educated well-mannered aristocrats ,and the "others" that is to say the riffraff's we have nothing to do with.

One day she meets a handsome young man (Henri Vidal) she mistakes for a member of the common herd.But don't rely too much on appearances;the hunk is not only an educated engineer but also a true noble.She falls for him -knowing he is from HER world- and they get married.

Alas,overnight,WW1 broke out .Only one sentence had hinted at a possible war,probably to justify the event.Vidal is even more handsome in full regalia and the heroine who can't stop her sobbing sees him go away from her.He's killed and the distraught wife searches comfort in charity.

The wicked godfather who is ALSO in love with his goddaughter tries to seduce her (or should I say "rape" ) but to no avail.

One day ,she meets again her late husband (you read well) suffering from amnesia:a nurse (Natalie Nattier) takes good care of him ,has married him too and is pregnant by him .What will the 'true" wife do?and most of all ,what shall the screen writers do with the intruder ? "Etrange Destin" shows the reactionary side of the melodrama genre ,which is not the prerogative of this one.The good nurse,whose devotion and abnegation know no bound ,is part of the "common herd" :she can't eat the way chic people have their dinner,she finds classical music boring,and she "erects a wall between me (the war hero) and my past".When you discover what terrible fate lays in store for her,you will realize that the obnoxious moral of the beginning bears fruit. There's a delightful supporting part of a concierge by Gabrielle Fontan who is no good at "psylochogy"! Like this? try these....

"Paradis Perdu " (Abel Gance,1939)

"Carrefour" (Kurt Bernardt,1938) and its two remakes "Retour De Martin Guerre" (Daniel Vigne ,1981) and "Sommersby" (Jon Amiel ,1993)
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The odds are against you.
2 May 2019
After Marcel Blistène 's doomed "LE FEU DANS LA PEAU" ,its three leads ,Philippe Lemaire ,Raymond Pellegrin and his real-life wife Gisèle Pascal team up again for "MARCHANDES D 'ILLUSIONS ;less doomed ,it attracts some interest .

Sister Marie -Thérèse tries to save the prostitutes doomed to a sad fate ;she is dressed in civilian clothes ,to be able to infiltrate those shady rings . She meets two streetwalkers ,Marcelle (Louise Carletti ) and Maria(Nicole Courcel) , who are in love with two honest men ,an painter and his best friend . But the girls pretend they work by night in a post office .Both still believe they can find love with a good man.

An old hooker is killed by a pimp ,and Marcelle is a suspect .The painter could provide her with an alibi,but she does not want him to testify in her favor,for he would know who she really is.....That's sister Marie-Thérèse 's dilemma:shall she urge the prisoner to tell the superintendent the truth (which would clear her) or shall she conceal the poor girl's secret?

The male principals (the good guys) have a relative short screen time ,and one of them (the painter) is not exactly what he claims to be ( a clue is given to the viewer in his first scene though)and Philippe Lemaire's last scene is unexpected -whereas Pellegrin' s is routine melodrama .

Unlike Joannon and Cloche ,his closer competitors in the field ,André does not pass over in silence the reasons why these girls have become women of the night ,there's no "daring " scenes in which the viewer can get an eyeful,and ,in spite of sister Marie-Therese's laudable work ,it's only half a happy end ,if one should say so .The Centrale Catholique Du Cinema made no mistake when they approved of the movie : the place where the sister takes her protégées ,"Le Nid" (=the nest) is a Christian home where they can start it all over again.

André's follow-up, "LES CLANDESTINES " , broached the prostitution world again ,but it was given a more film noir treatment (this side was also present in "MARCHANDES D'ILLUSION " ,notably the pimp's crime and his death )
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King Lear ,his sardines and his daughters.
30 April 2019
Leo Joannon's films are my favorite guilty pleasure.Histrionic acting,absurd screenplays and God for everyone.

Listen to the voice-over which opens the movie:"Here's a station.Next to a station,there's generally a town;and in a town,there is love!"Much food for thought,huh? The train arrives.First the men unload the sardines ,raw material for M.Andrieu's cannery.But there's more in the train: two girls come back from winter sports (which at the time was luxury)and dad (Pierre Fresnay),if it were not enough ,presents them with jewels.Spoiled girls indeed ...However much he tried to edify them,to enlighten them,to quote the gospels (sometimes he thinks he is Jesus himself,when you listen to his words),the girls did not care.Both got married ,and of course pretty soon the marriages are on the rocks.

The several incredible moments make this film worth seeking out: -Annie has swallowed 12 tablets of phenobarbital but in the hospital the nurse tells the desperate father that it's an "accident" ;80% (?) of poisonings are accidents....

-Annie lying on her hospital bed."your feet are icy.They don't have hot water bottles here?" the fathers roars;then his daughter throws her arms around his neck and cries.

-Annie falls for a musician.Dad arranges her divorce .Alas, with the second daughter Cri-Cri ,it's love at first sight with the artist.

-Cri-Cri's husband explains to the tearful dad that she cuckolded him ,but never mind,he does not stop his clay pigeon shooting.

Pierre Fresnay who used to work with the finest directors (Pagnol,Clouzot,Renoir,Duvivier,and even Hitchcock)had a dismal end of career.

Like this?Try these.....(all by Leo Joannon) "Le défroqué" 1953 "L'Homme aux Clés d'Or "1957" Le Désert de Pigalle" 1958
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The night of the usurper.
30 April 2019
Doctor Mathieu helps the royalist plot against Napoleon .Actually he is such a drip that he lets himself persuaded by the royalists that ,for their homeland's sake, they must do away with the usurper. The assassination will take place in Chalons where Mathieu claims he's got to visit some patients .But the emperor's police has got wind of the attempt.Now their master will spend the night in a small village, in Mathieu's own house! And ,unbeknownst to him, one of his accomplices puts the explosive device in his desirable mansion!

A lot of Jean Dreville 's works deserve to be re-discovered ,notably " LES AFFAIRES SONT LES AFFAIRES" "LA FERME DU PENDU " "LE VISITEUR" " HORIZONS SANS FIN".The first version of "LA REINE MARGOT" and "LA CAGE AUX ROSSIGNOLS " are his most famous efforts ,but the latter is soupy melodrama .

The cast and credits read : a film by Noel-Noel directed by Jean Dreville ; both men had already teamed up for "LA CAGE AUX ROSSIGNOLS" (later remade as "LES CHORISTES " ); a huge success but a bit mawkish in my book .

"LA SENTINELLE ENDORMIE " is much more interesting ,with an excellent screenplay with never a dull moment. The actors rise to the occasion : Noel-Noel is a namby-pamby conspirer ,overtaken by events,but who reveals himself a resourceful man ; Michel Galabru portrays a colorful character who has a tendency to embroider the truth :a former soldier of the old guard of Napoleon,he would have fallen asleep -hence the title- while on duty and the emperor in the flesh would have replaced him!;Micheline Luccioni is a very capable woman of a servant; Pascale Audret as the doctor's daughter and Jean Sobieski as his nephew provide the love interest ; and the little boy (Alain Noel !)does not ham it up ,as child actors often do , and is very cute and curious.

All are going to spend a night to remember ; Napoleon ,who is after all the main character of the story ,does not appear ,one only sees his back in the final sequence (like in Ettore Scola's "LA NUIT DE VARENNES " in which neither Louis the Sixteenth nor Marie-Antoinette would appear);plenty of suspense is guaranteed for the viewer ,and it's sustained till the very last picture !!

It can also be seen as a reductio ad absurdum of the futility of politics ; never,perhaps ,even in Henri Jeanson's lines , the Legion D'Honneur (created by Napoleon himself)was held up in ridicule so much-which gives the movie a contemporary feel!-

The human factor is not passed over in silence ;the doctor's daughter : "you think about your own little boy ,but haven't you thought about the little ones in Chalons?"And hints at the Russian campaign sound highly ironical ...

It's an imaginary conspiracy ,but it's a night to remember indeed .Recommended.
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The perils of Pauline.
29 April 2019
The fact that there is no French review for a movie directed by the most famous old wave director speaks volumes of the ill-fated nature of the project ; more than a continous biography ,it's more a succession of little pictures ,almost sketches ;taking the biggest liberties with history (Pauline's fate is anyway just a footnote in her big brother's saga), it is now frivolous ,foot loose and fancy free, now (though seldom) dramatic :it's Delannoy's and his screenwriter Philippe Hériat 's wish,but it' Sacha Guitry's reality!So neither the old cinema de papa buffs (I'm one of them) nor (and anyway they panned everything Delannoy did,which was sometimes quite unfair)the young Turks of the notorious Nouvelle Vague got anything out of it and the amorous adventures of Pauline B are considered a bitter failure in Delannoy's native country.

Most of the precedent reviewers point out that the editing is absurd,the story incoherent , and some actors (Micheline Presles,notably) wasted.It's a lavish picture book ,with a cosmopolitan cast (French ,Italian,German and even Irish -Boyd-), but completely hollow ,with now and then ,a good idea (the statue episode,the jig saw puzzle), which does not make it a 2h15 good movie for all that.

Take the prologue in Corsica ;Pauline's early days are rather obscure;the long stroll across the country ,arm in arm , seems to be straight out from a musical ,and one can imagine Napoleon (Raymond Pellegrin,who had already played the emperor in Guitry's "Napoleon" ,by no means one of this director's best)sing to his siblings about the big plans he has made for them.Incidentally , Napo did not want Pauline to marry Freron because he was not a high born gentleman,but because he had proposed to another lady.

The Santo Domingo (against Toussaint Laverdure's rebellion) episode is a curious jumble : studio exoticism , the earnest playing of Massimo Girotti jars with the erotic swagger of Gina Lollobrigida (who was Delannoy's Esmeralda a few years back);although she played around , Pauline attended her husband till he died of yellow fever .

Except for the scenes with the sculptor (in which Gina strips bare ,but do not expect to get an eyeful ,one only sees her back),the italian vignette is insignificant .

The count (Stephen Boyd ,who was given a thoroughly ridiculous part: his tooth ,his wild ride,his death under an apple tree (!)) represents one of the many lovers of Napo's sister ;besides ,when he is introduced to her in her Paris dwelling , the woman who shows the way looks like her madam who was waiting for another man with a foreign accent.

It's true that all Napo's siblings were incapable and that Paolina (he frenchified her name when he rose to power)was his favorite ;she proved it later on when she visited him on Elbe Island and the gift of the jewels is historically accurate .

Do not get we wrong.I'm not the kind of N.V. afficionados who is anxious to put disparagement over cinema de papa ;most of the reviews I wrote about Delannoy's works are favorable ;but ,frankly,sport, here ,he proves that big budgets do not mean great achievements
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Victor gets high with a little help from his friend ...
28 April 2019
This is the one and only movie directed by Marc Camoletti whose work is just to film his own play ; given the awful results, it's a blessing he didn't do it again.

Almost all the action takes place in a luxury flat where a lawyer (Michel Galabru) brings his fiance (Lorraine Bracco ,debut ,as "Bubble")...Not to be outdone by him, his wife , a dentist,(Marina Vlady ) entertains a failed actor .Both newcomers are a nuisance to live with at home ,the former being often high on drugs ,the latter rehearsing his romantic parts with male partners .As the story progresses,it gets worse and worse ;to sit through this painful tomfoolery is a true ordeal.

I give an extra star for Marina Vlady whose beauty and dignity survive this farce ;why on earth did she have to get involved in that business?
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You only die twice .
27 April 2019
Critics are very divised on Jacques deray's most ambitious movie in the eighties:whilst Jean Tulard hailed it as the director's apex , Alain Garel ,in "la Saison Cinématographique 1986 ,was much less laudative , deploring that the denouement of Robin Cook's novel was cheapened .

Jacques Deray had already broached psychological thriller,notably in "La piscine",(1969) which holds up quite well today ;he would succeed again in "Un Crime "(1993) ,an unfairly overlooked film noir.

In the eighties , like in the seventies,he was too often at the beck and call of French superstars ("Trois Hommes A Abattre" ,"Le Marginal") ,and his production suffered accordingly ."On Ne Meurt Que Deux Fois" is much less derivative casting Serrault ,who from "Pile Ou Face " had relinquished comedies to dramatic works , is credible as a cop,but less so as a man who can seduce Charlotte Rampling who ,with Xavier Deluc -too often ignored by both directors and audiences - ,forms a fascinating ambiguous pernicious pair.

The movie often drags on ,and Deray's directing too static and conventional ; if the movie sometimes does the trick,it's because of Rampling' s deadly charm ,par excellence the English femme fatale and of Michel Audiard's final lines -he was to die shortly afterwards- : the conversation at the morgue with the medical examiners is perhaps the best moment in the whole movie and would justify the English title "you'll die with your eyes open" -the French one is my title .
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Out of Whack (1979)
Insecurity in the French late seventies.
26 April 2019
Not to be mistaken for Claude Chabrol's eponymous movie (1997).

This is a series of sketches ,all featuring Jacques Villeret ,"linked" by Mister-man-of-the-street interviews : in 1979, most of the French people were alreay complaining,moaning ,cursing those troubled times ;not only the connection with the sketches is artificial ,but it is also a spate of clichés ,and by the fourth opinion poll,the viewer may have a tendency to use the fast forward button. Now for the segments:

segment one :"urgence":Jacques François ,Tonie Marshall. A plumber is called in a hospital where there are damages caused by leakage ;he is mistaken for a patient and taken to the operating room. This sketch was probably conceived to denounce those overcrowded hospitals where sick persons are crammed like cattle,but due to a heavy-handed directing,it fails totally to convince;only the dialogue of the deaf between the plumber and the surgeon does the trick,just because in the kingdom of the blind,the one-eyed man is king.

segment 2:"night in tube " :Patrick Chesnais, MIchel Jonas. Three hoodlums spread terror in the subway ;the ending may be surprising but the short is a saddening bore ; it was supposed to depict the insecurity but Villeret would not scare a four year old.

segment 3:"thérapy" :Micheline Presles . A socialite visits the poor and the sick in the hospitals in the name of the Lord and calls on a painter's art gallery where she goes into ectasies before his horrors; secretly ,she goes to her shrink's office and it's downhill ; one feels sorry for legendary actress Presles ;after urban insecurity,this is angst ,and it's hopeless.

Sketch 4:"return to the basic" Eva Darlan. Things go a little better (it couldn't be worse)with this spoof on the "return to nature" which was so trendy in the FRench seventies ;the lines are a notch or two up the scale ; the only short where there's a little subtlety :does the tired writer leave Paris for the country because he wanted to escape from the trouble and the strife of a fashionable writer's life ,or because he was running out of ideas ;some sentences show that he has not given up his claim to fame (he wants to be talked about even when he is away);the way he condescendingly treats his peasant "brother" is also a good moment.The ending is ambiguous :it's not sure that the answer to insecurity and stress is outside the city limits.

segment 5: "Plucky Dupin".Michel blanc A paranoiac is so afraid of thieves his house is full of deadly traps ; insecurity again ; and predictable ending ....

Segment 6: "we can work it out" Judith Magre . A marvelously precise spoof on those two-bit psychoanalysis on the radio ; a woman (played by Villeret with a wig ) phones the local Ménie Grégoire (or Dear Abby ,if you're American)because she has lots of problems with her family ; this is downright absurd,but ,against all odds ,it works,because of Judith Magre's efficient performance of a reassuring and suave charlatan .Much better,in this field,than segment 3.

Segment 7: "sentimental hygiene " :Patrick Chesnais ,Evelyne Bouix. A cop tracks the prostitution rings ;the ending is as predictable as that of segment 5.

Segment 8 "who's there?" Eva Darlan,José Arthur This could have been a good spoof on stupid TV games ,but the paucity of the ideas and the unbearable actress's ham acting fail totally to grab the viewer.

Segment 9: "daily life at the "La Grenade " cafe": Patrick Chesnais , Roland Blanche, Tonie Marshall. They saved the worst for the last ; it's the militaries' turn to be ridiculed ,and this final sketch is a mess ,a jumble,a waste of breath..

Two acceptable sketches (out of nine) ,it does not make it on the percentages ;it's really too bad for the sadly missed Villeret,who stars in every sketch and who was rarely given worthy parts on the silver screen
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Bécassine! (2018)
Dedicated to FEF
25 April 2019
"Bécassine" was one of the first European comic strips ,although its authors did not use the speech bubbles ;it began to define what is known under the "clear line" term,which spawned the whole Belgian school ,of which Tintin is the most famous work.Anyway the Podalydès bros were Hergé buffs : the Greek stringman's name, in their "BECASSINE!" is probably a nod to Rastapopoulos.

When "Becassine" was transferred to the screen in 1940,there was an outcry in Bretagne:a real storm in a teacup,considering what was happening in France at the time.The same almost happened for the 2018 version.

But the people are very divided on the character:a lot of people (particularly Bretons)have always thought that this bubble head servant was a way of laughing at Bretagne,which would have been behind the times.There's a certain charm in these comic books nonetheless,particularly when it verges on absurd.Becassine carries the orders to the letter ,and as she has her own logic,it's really funny in places.

In the 1940 effort, this side of the comedy is passed over in silence ;Paulette Dubost was ideally cast as the lead ,but she was given an an abysmal screenplay to work with.

The Podalydès bros 's attempt is a vast improvement on it : the pictures are luminous , the characters move in an almost magic landscape ,and a nostalgic poetry emanates from certain sequences: the magic lantern ,the balloons , the ball with cartoon characters (in both senses of the terms ) ,all this and more have an obsolete charm of things of a distant past .Karin Viard,mainly in her first scenes, is a distinguished Marquise De Grand Air ;Emelyne Bayart ,who is not very known ,is well cast as the principal;on the other hand ,her wicked cousin,Marie Quillouch (Squinting Marie) does not squint and becomes a tomboy ;too bad uncle Corentin only wears the Breton costume at the beginning.

Becassine carries the orders to the letter ,and as she has her own logic:it's the main source of comic in the albums and ,in this field, the gags are few and far between : the excellent "idem" bibs gag is botched and Bécassine's problems with the vocabulary (here represented by her lines with Mademoiselle Chataigne (=chestnut)) don't fit in the picture: Bécassine is a naive bubble head nanny and she's supposed to have kept her peasant language and rustic accent ;here it's too refined ("IL A Fière Allure" =he cuts a fine figure) ;no patois, no broken French .

In spite of its qualities ,it's not sure that it will satisfy the readers who are old now ;At the French box office ,the movie semi-nosedived ;it's ages since children stopped reading these comics.Yet,the Podalydès 's work is aimed at their market ; the grandparents may take them to the theaters because of their childhood nostalgia ; but it will do the trick only for little brats ; their elders would rather have more eventful tales .

"Becassine " ,compared to such disasters in the comic-turned-movie such as "Spirou" ,"Boule Et Bill " , "Iznogood " or " Gaston" ,was made with care and can ,from that point of view,considered a successful work ; but as a character who's supposed to make you heartily laugh , it does not make it.
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La corruzione (1963)
God is dead
21 April 2019
Many of Bolognini's films ought to be re-discovered today. This is one of them.

That's what the precedent user wrote;I second that."La Corruzione" is a great Italian movie which compares favorably with the best of what Antonioni,Visconti or Fellini did in those years.

It begins with a sentence which tells us that " even if God did not exist ,religion (and faith) would be beautiful";then a speech by the high school head teacher ;then a jazzy music which seems out of place ;it actually predates the end of the movie: "La Viaccia" had already a desperate ending ,but Stefano crying in his car over the universal "Corruzione" while reckless boys and girls are dancing to some kinda hypnotic frenetic tune leaves the viewer no hope.Nothing could describe the material world like this last night when Stefano is wandering aimlessly in the streets of a city full of neon and homeless brothers.He wanted to be a priest ,but there's no longer room for purity in a world eager for money,sex and power (that's what Adriana (Rosanna Schiaffino) explains to Stefano on the boat but he does not know the world enough to understand what she means ,or at least he pretends he does not understand) The depiction of the father/son relationship is much better applied on "la Corruzione" than it would be later in "Imputazione Di Omicido Per Uno Studente ";I had seen "La Corruzione " forty years ago,I saw it last night and it has improved with age whereas "Imputazione" is a dated post -68 demagogic movie.

The two actors give superlative performances ,particularly Jacques Perrin I have perhaps never seen better than here.His youthful look works wonders when Bolognini depicts his deceived innocence ;he is deeply moving when tears begin to fall on his cheeks (when there's nothing left to hope ,when words cannot convey what he feels ...) His father (Alain Cuny) is both God and the Devil ;God because he is a wealthy man who selfishly reigns over his fellow men ,because he wants to create a son in his own image (he tells hims so);the Devil because his yacht becomes the garden of Eden where he puts a new Eve .Hints at the Bible abound.First corruption.

The scene of the suicide should be studied ,it's a model of directing ;it could not be more effective if filmed by a thriller specialist.The father pays the victim's father and there won't be any scandal.Second corruption.

A note about the actors: Alain Cuny began his career in "Les Visiteurs Du Soir" (Carné ,1942) and although his career was extremely rich (he was featured in "Fellini-Satyricon" and in "la Dolce Vita" but was deemed too intellectual )he never enjoyed popularity in his native country.

Jacques Perrin is not only a brilliant actor but also a wise producer ("Z","Microcosmos" "Les Choristes" "Ocean" ) .He has made memorable movies both in France ("Peau D'Ane" ) and in Italy ("Cronica Familiare" "Il Deserto Dei Tartari" )
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Josepha (1982)
Veni Vidi Vichy
21 April 2019
First work by Christopher Frank who,in spite of his name, is French ;a good screenwriter ,but his movies are a little undistinguished .

He succeeds in his depiction of minor figures,the supporting actors: on stage they find it hard to get a full house ; when Miou-Miou is offered a part in a film made in Vichy ,her scene is so stupid we really feel sorry for her.

Her relationship with Michel suffers accordingly.While making this abysmal movie ,Josepha meets Régis, a wealthy horse breeder with whom she has a love affair ,to take revenge on Michel who used to cheat on her with a press attache . All these scenes between Josepha,Régis and his grown daughter are pure soap opera and throw the film off balance ;hors-riding , life of luxury in a desirable mansion ,all this sounds Harlequin romance.

The three principals (Miou-Miou, Bruno Crémer,Claude Brasseur) are talented actors but they are given poor material to work with.
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Déjà Vu
19 April 2019
To think that many Gerard Philipe fans do not even know that this movie exists.Oddly ,and although he plays the main character ,his name does not appear at the top of the credits ,because he was relatively unknown in the world of cinema whereas he was already famous on stage.

In the French cinema,there was a time when a solid screenplay ,wonderful actors and painstaking directing were all that counts;but in the late fifties or early sixties ,I do not remember exactly well ,a wicked fairy came and said :

-Listen to my spell, you lousy old directors,prick your finger and sleep for a hundred years!

Thus ,many of the great movies of the forties and fifties became sleepers ,waiting for their prince charming ....or for some imdb reviewer such as Writer's Reign to wake them.

Pierre Very's screenplay is absolutely stunning : in this forsaken work ,there are two stories ,cunningly told in parallel ,which become one in the last fifteen minutes ; some curious warnings, an impending curse ,the hero seeing things ,bizarre names (the village of Tournepique ):it was meant to be.Georges Lacombe,who had already displayed flair for film noir ("LE DERNIER DES SIX " 1939),excels himself here : it might well be the best French fantasy film of the forties (along with Tourneur's "LA MAIN DU DIABLE "); he creates an eerie atmosphere in everyday life : the local train ,the cemetery , the old diary , the deja vu feeling of the hero who might have lived another life ...

The acting is first-class:Gerard Philipe is par excellence the romantic actor ,the man with the child in his eyes;his routine life in a notary's office does not satisfy him,even though he has good propects :he longs for something else and his premonitory dreams and his visions ,although they scare him ,fascinate him . The girl he meets (Jany Holt ) may be the great love he is waiting for;but the first scene is revealing : they meet on the village square and they do not notice each other ; this girl was once the village teacher but she eloped with a shady painter ;she returns home to be confronted with a shrew of a mother (the always reliable Sylvie)and a deaf grandma ;the viewer sides with her , and expects that the young dreamer will fall in love with her and save her from the old greybeard her shameless mom wants her to marry.But it's not as simple as that...Holt gives an ambiguous performance,and she is attracted by....

.... another character , the hero's friend , played by Pierre Brasseur at his most cynical;in spite of his nastiness ,he brings a lot of humor in a dramatic story :see him using his hands to express himself when his friend tells him he will refund the money he stole from a wealthy man ;hear him tell the story of the doomed lovers a long long time ago ,how he laughs at pure romantic love :a real tour de force!

A riveting story which will keep glued to your seat till the very last picture ; it is essential viewing for people interested in the old French cinema, the extraordinary cinéma de papa!Break the spell!
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L'Important c'est d'aimer.
17 April 2019
It should be pointed out that neither Sara Biasini ,Romy Schneider's daughter ,nor her ex-husband approved of this movie ,which they accused of giving the audience the portrait of a woman hooked to alcohol and pills.

So one has to consider this movie ONE vision of Romy Schneider 's last days (she was to die the following year);and Marie Bäumer's performance is absolutely mind-boggling,stunning,an amazing true-to-life portrait .And anyway ,the film does not spare the reporter,an intruder in a woman's private life ,his sole concern is to dwell on sordid details :the only movies he mentions are the Sissi trilogy : no hints at Welles, Tavernier,Sautet, Losey ,Costa-Gavras, Visconti (with whom she played Sissi for the fourth time : in her memoirs she wrote that the Italian director was the only one to paint a historically accurate picture of Elisabeth aka Sissi),Deray (who ,pushed by Alain Delon ,recharged her career) ; the journalist , a German one ,is a cynical go-getter whose main concern is to get scandalous stories about a suffering star .If another movie is mooted , it is by Schneider herself who talks about what would be her final movie "LA PASSANTE DU SANS SOUCI" from Joseph Kessel 's novel , a work she was anxious to get made (by Jacques Rouffio) .She complains that German directors (and the seventies spawned a whole generation of great directors in that country)never called on her for interesting parts ,thus a career which essentially took place in France where she was one of the biggest stars of those years .But her interviewer is only interested in his nice empress, the money she makes (which was squandered by her mother and her stepfather) ,and the relationship with her mother (who played her mother in the Marischka trilogy and who was a supporting actress is some other of her movies of the fifties) ; her moving to France ("not an escape" ,she points out)was necessary to live her life at last .

The second part of the movie is not really given over to her career ,but shows her sincere friendships (the friend who comes to cheer her ,the photographer in love with her), her kindness (the autograph) ,her joie de vivre which survived through the pain (the last scene will move you to tears,a fabulous rainbow:unfortunately there won't be any crock of gold at the end of it).

Filmed in stark black and white , half documentary,half fiction ,it's not a facile work ,it is nevertheless a must for the actress's numerous fans,in spite of her daughter's legitimate reserves.
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We'll always remember :no retreat, man, no surrender.
16 April 2019
The last movie by Alexandre Astruc,who was only to make MTV works afterward ,it has nothing to do with camera pen style,his former style,even to the smallest extent;it's an impersonal movie.The first part is rather dull,handicapped by a pointless female part (played by ex-James Bond girl Claudine Auger,who seems to think "I wish I could be somewhere else".

In April 1941,Germany invaded Yugoslavia without a declaration of war;aboard a destroyer ,opinions differ:shall we surrender or shall we join the British fleet in Malta?Two young lieutenants would like to continue the war,but their superior is a coward and it's a capitulation ."You should salute your new flag" he is ironically told as he is leaving the ship.In this second part,the movie takes off,thanks to convincing Gerard Barray.
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They must have known the time machine!
15 April 2019
Sandwiched between " LE MASQUE DE FER" and " LES PARIAS DE LA GLOIRE " ,both mediocre, "CASABLANCA NID D ' ESPIONS " is Henry Decoin 's nadir by such a wide margin people who do not know this director won't never believe he was once one of the finest films noirs directors our country had ever known.I'm not going to add insult to injury by mentioning these classics ,some of which were featured by Don Malcom in his "The French had a name for it" San Francisco films festival.

The precis on the imdb page relieves me of writing about the screenplay ,a poor man's Curtiz's "CASABLANCA" .As for the acting,why the hell did Maurice Ronet have to get involved in that business?As it were not enough ,he was also featured in "PARIAS DE la GLOIRE"

Couldn't care less directing , unconvincing acting and far-fetched story !and plenty of anachronisms which are guaranteed to net nothing but horse laughs :

How can miss Sarita Montiel butcher Edith Piaf 's "La Vie En Rose " in 1942 whereas the song only appeared in May 1945?????

Miss Montiel puts a 45 rpm on a record-player (maybe a Teppaz TM)!!!

The men are dressed in sixties suits!!!

They must have known the time machine.
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Le faux pas (1965)
Did he fall or was he pushed?
14 April 2019
"Faux Pas" has two meanings in French : 1)to trip over 2) the expression which the English borrows from French = to make a foolish mistake;both meanings can apply to Ormesson's thriller.

Influenced by the Americans psychological thrillers and the French films noirs of the forties/fifties ,Ormesson knows his classics : the cliff and the mysterious suicidal woman will remind you of "Vertigo " ; the policemen stopping the car is reminiscent of "psycho" ; the rope in the final scenes comes directly from "Plein Soleil " aka " Purple noon" ; the shoes ,shown twice in close shot are Hitchcockesque to the core .

That does not mean "Le Faux Pas" is devoid of interest ,quite the reverse! The director takes advantage of the beautiful landscapes of a rocky coast and of the lovely Cassis harbor on the Riviera ; Jean-Claude Pascal ,who has got only one scene ,makes all his sentences count and the viewer does not know whether he's a good husband or a pervy vulture who wants to latch onto his wife's fortune .The shadow of a coat and of a hat in the dark house makes you feel a human presence .The screenplay may possess considerable appeal for Boileau-Narcejac 's buffs .

Minor quibble :Yori Bertin's performance is quite bland and never,in a month of Sundays , one believes she 's a tormented soul, verging on lunacy :it's not the return of Kim Novak ;besides ,she 's supposed to be Madame Langerot née Greenwood :not only she speaks French without the slightest accent,but she also never utters a single word in her first language !

But the screenplay is strong enough to sustain interest and suspense till the last pictures ;the last sequence is another variation on "vertigo" .
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Journeys through the past .
14 April 2019
Jerome and Florence have been married for five years ;they spend a week in Camague ,where they met and fell in love.Their mariage runs into difficulties : the daily routine has taken its doll.Florence intends to rekindle her husband's love and thoughtfulness.As for Jerome , this vacation means wild rides in the magnificent landscapes of this region in the south of France .At night ,he falls quickly asleep and his wife remembers their past.

This movie was relegated to the soft porn category when it was released whereas it's actually a psychological drama :the three principals , André Oumansky,Louis Velle and Christiane Minazzoli , are not porn stars ,but genuine actors ,essentially working on stage or TV .

In his short output (5 films in all) , Antoine d'Ormesson seems to be interested in the situation seen from different points of view: that's what he had done, in his smart thriller "Le Faux Pas" (1964); here the wife remembers the way their love used to be ,her temptations (with a handsome man played by Louis Velle) ,while her husband is sleeping ;then she falls asleep,he awakes and it's his turn to relive the past : his way of looking at thinks is quite different from hers .

When they awake,will they be able to pick up the pieces?
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Tout Va Très Bien Madame La Comtesse!
14 April 2019
A subject which could have spawned a very funny comedy ,but the comic scenes are few and far between.

The lines are full of dirty words which do not suit a countess, and Charlotte De Turckheim 's performance is too vulgar to convince ;In real life,she does come from a noble protestant family ,which crowns it!One expects a true aristocrat , true to tradition of honor, snob, proud of her noble lineage , if one is to believe that this lady is anxious to keep her desirable château to continue with her "reign" over the yokels of her village .

Best performance comes from Mathieu Simonet ,the new heir (for in this still macho world ,women ,even though they are educated -the countess's daughter is a vet-cannot lay claim to the title of countess;Simonet is aristocratic,refined, tricky ("there's an easy way to become a countess,he says to her dispossessed cousin he woos ") ,modern and pragmatic :doesn't he want an open day event , a thing the countess doesn't want to hear of?what ?let the riffraff in?Besides,he's got property business plans ,which means turns the ancestors' property upside down: what will become of those poor squirrels?"

On the other hand Abdel is a character who gets in the way ; this part ,in spite of Amir El Kacem's efforts , is a millstone round the director's neck :bedridden half of the time , he makes the screenplay heavy and he seems only in it to secure a happy end .(Given the countess' s obsolete ideas, an ending which does not make sense at all).

A story from the old cinema, but it falls short of its goal.
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La travestie (1988)
11 April 2019
This is not what you expect from Yves Boisset, the militant director whose best works deal with burning subjects ; you first think it's not the right way to tackle feminism :what? a look at prostitution, some lesbianism and a return to "normality " in the shape of the most horrid hairy macho you could think of...

But further acquaintance shows this : this is a feminist movie,even though it shows the destruction of the heroine :first a lawyer with good prospects ,but who is given insignificant affairs because her boss always saves the best bit for himself ;then a transvestite turned pimp in the prostitution world : Miss Zabou (Breitman)'s metamorphosis is a genuine tour de force ;with her raincoat,her tie and her male cutting ,she literally becomes a man ;she's even almost scary .She makes friends with a prostitute who becomes her lover .... and she passes for her pimp in this red-light district !and after her death , she 's hired as a maid in a bourgeois family where she seduces a mother of two .

She tries another way of living ,but her new lover is afraid to lose her children (I don't want my kids to be given to a couple of d.....s !says the husband we never see.)

In fact ,the heroine cannot find her place in a man's man's man's world ;her last relationship will be the death of her, at least mentally .....She plays the game of cheating at her own risks : dressed up as a man, sexually attracted by both sexes , usurping another woman's name to get her lover,and finally trying to find a human being to live with who reveals himself a hateful macho...the sexual exploitation of women;although based on a true story ,Boisset's film looks more like a fable than a realistic depiction.Every time ,the man wins it all : be it the lawyer ,the good father or the macho : and Nicole's final act is pointed at all men ,not the happy-go-lucky painter.

Zabou (Breitman) gives a Cesar-caliber performance in all her scenes she' s dressed up as a man ; the sadly missed Christine Pascal 's appearance is much too short ,and the rest of the cast is not on a par with them ,particularly Anna Galiena and Yves Alfonso ;Boisset's directing is a bit heavy-handed ,but it's his trademark .His movie is overblown ,but most of his other works almost always are ;they are demonstrative and that's finally what one expects from them.

Like this ? try these.....

"Les Biches " Claude Chabrol,1967

"Une Femme, Un Jour " Leonard Keigel ,1977
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Codine (1963)
Valjean in Romania.
10 April 2019
Henri Colpi's career was very short ,but certainly off the beaten track : "UNE AUSSI LONGUE ABSENCE" and "HEUREUX QUI COMME ULYSSE " (Fernandel's last movie) are his most known works :the first is a strong psychological drama with a haunting music which is known all around the world ;the second is a fine graceful film .

"CODINE " has fallen into oblivion in Colpi's country ;both reviews he gets come from Romanian users ,which makes sense ,for it's a French-Romanian production ,filmed on location in beautiful Romanian landscapes ,using local actors ; some French thespians are included : Françoise Brion (Irène) ,Nelly Borgeaud (Adrien's mom) ,Maurice Sarfati (Alexis) and last but not least Germaine Kerjean many remembers as Gabin's mother in "VOICI lE TEMPS DES ASSASSINS "as Anastasie (she whipped Gabin's wife, here , I won't tell what she does, it's worse).

The screenplay could be trite melodrama : two brothers,the good and the bad, a woman comes between them and tragedy is around the corner.But Colpi transcends the code of the genre ;the story is less important than the atmosphere of a poor outskirt of Bucarest .The luxuriant landscapes sharply contrasts with the people's plight :not only they have to face poverty every day of their miserable life (Irene is a semi-whore ,who sells her body for a beautiful garment) ,but they are also decimated by a cholera epidemic : note how colpi's directing avoids spectacular scenes ,the virtuosity of his camera when he films the death of Alexis.

Codine is an ambiguous character : a Cain of sorts, for his mother hates him (in the Bible ,God accepted Abel's offering but turned His back on his doomed sibling),an ex-convict ,like Victor Hugo's Jean Valjean, he's good and evil at once ; he remains a brute but he becomes friends with young Adrien and he redeems himself by protecting his mother he probably secretly loves because she represents the woman he longs for;Irène sleeps with him when he gives her presents .

Definitely off the beaten track on the French scene then at the beck and call of the Nouvelle Vague , "Codine" should not be missed.Told in voice over by the young hero turned adult.
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Seuls (1981)
You're alone in it.
10 April 2019
A man (Niels Arestrup) finds 4 passport photos in an automaton ;the resemblance between his mother and the lady on the picture is striking ;he visits his grandmother who takes out her old photographs and both are amazed; she died a long time ago (a scene of nightmare shows the little boy in front of the grave) but the man wants to find this lookalike.

It's neither thriller,nor psychological drama: it's "heady" stuff ,probably inspired by the French New Wavelet : characters who have nothing to do but contemplate their navel , (they do not have to make both ends meet) , exuberant guests (the absurd dance of the newcomer and the girlfriend he treats like dirt, cerebral actors (Michael Lonsdale ,who can be excellent when he's given decent material to work with ,inexpressive Bulle ogier whose biggest desire is to have a child with her lover-painter ) who exchange fortune -cookie philosophies , sex scenes involving the hero .Now and then , beautiful pictures ,but it does not make an attractive movie for all that .

Some call it artistic ,I will call it arty : a hotch-potch in which the director wants his audience feels he 's watching an important meaningful work whereas he does not know,has no idea that it's a saddening bore all along the way.
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Teen angst
8 April 2019
The re-issue of "UN GOSSE DE LA BUTTE" put back the spotlight on Maurice Delbez's career ;unfortunately ,apart from the above-mentioned work ,there's not a lot of things to discover:his three comedies (but "A PIED A CHEVAL ET EN VOITURE" which depicted the coming of automobile mass production in the late fifties )were abysmal ;then we're left with "L'Année Du Bac" .

Against all odds ,it's better than I was expecting ;it's obsolete,it's simplistic,but it is bizarre and can be considered a curio. , So much for the prologue :yeah yeah girl Sheila ,cute with her famous bunches ,performs "Cette Année-Là " (not written by her regular songwriter) :this is a rather lovely ballad ,not unworthy of teenage angst one can find in Phil Spector's productions :it's not in the same league ,by a long shot ,but it's got a fine brief sixties guitar solo ;this slow is heard again in the movie and hummed by the young actresses ;I cannot help but think that if Sheila is featured ,it's because her producer/songwriter wrote the score and thus found a good way to promote her record.

The film subject is the generations gap ;it takes place in a rather bourgeois milieu : A general (Paul Amiot) owns a castle,Monsieur Terrenoire (Jean Desailly) dwells in a comfortable house with TV set ,a thing many people could not afford in the early sixties ;by contrast ,the teacher,Monsieur Cachou ,lives in a rather modest apartment.The general has his son and daughter under his command :he instills moral values and the sense of honor into his children : the girl (Elisabeth Wiener) will not be allowed to attend the Surprise-Partie (Surpat)(=party ) ;the unfortunate boy will .On the other hand , there's a nice camaraderie between Monsieur Terrenoire and his son Mic:two different ways of education ,the screenwriters won't really take sides .

A bizarre movie indeed ;the first part is insignificant : hints at homework (maths and essays ) , blue jokes, futile quarrels between youngsters ....Then the long "Sur-pat " which at first appears as the pièce de resistance ;fortunately ,it is not ,for the viewer quickly grows weary of this muzak.The celebration turns sour as gossips and slander turn up .

The movie which was a harmless bland comedy becomes a drastic tragedy ;the tone of the conversations has changed and many things which would have been better left unsaid make the youngsters think that "if they want their daddy to be hero,a moral champion,they are bound to be disillusioned before long ".

This last part looks like those old scout novels ,with its morbid atmosphere,its "gallows" ,its priest dressed in black , which sharply contrasts with what the viewer has seen in the first half;this gap throws the film off balance but makes it an UFO on the French sixties scene ....
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