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Baratin (1956)
Sales talk
11 October 2019
Roger Nicolas was a stand -up comic whose death (the day after Presley's) goes unnoticed ,even in France .Director Jean Stelli's claim to fame was his tear-jerker "LE VOILE BLEU" which made the French shed floods of tears in the occupation days .

"Baratin" (=sales talk) is a harmless little comedy ,unambitious but funny (in places).

Roger is a street peddler whose spiel used to convince the housewives but his work has grown harder over the years ;besides the gendarmes (22 is a number they say when the police come)are watching over the street.His pal , a failed painter and a womanizer says he found a soil where oil gushes forth in the south of France but he is pennyless. Opportunity knocks: the laundrywomen ,all in love with the painter, have just won the jackpot on the national lottery;and Roger comes first when it comes to giving someone the sales pitch .

There are good gags:
  • Roger ,convincing the four girls .
-The same , refusing to listen to his conscience by plugging his ears ,before gambling all the money and losing everything. -The depiction of the would be oil well and he future buildings . -His use of the business vocabulary (holding,etc) -The final disappointment which is actually a godsend.

This is based on an operetta,but the ditties are kept to an economical level,fortunatey.

If you do not ask for too much.....
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Dinner is served, Madam.
10 October 2019
Countess Louise De Keradec is not a merry widow ; she cannot get over her dear husband 's death :"as long as I'm thinking about him, he won't be dead ",she sighs while watching again and again his photograph and his bust.But a jeweller brings her a hefty invoice concerning rings ,necklaces with esmeralds .She dislikes those precious stones ,so it's glaringly obvious :she's been cheated .Abetted by her mother,she decides she would marry again: for this pupose,she gathers her suitors in her desirable castle ,looking for the ideal man.

Director Yves MIRANDE is also the writer , his usual job ,for he only made 11 movies in total,some of which co-directed .As for his actress,Vera KORENE ,she was essentially a stage actress whose filmography is rather small (10 films).

As a writer, Mirande occasionally comes up with one good line or two ,but he is no match for Jeanson -who reportedly liked this movie- ,let alone Guitry. The best moments are to be found in the first part : the photograph of the fickle husband thrown into a truck full of pigs ;the smug novelist talking about his "art" ; the opportunist deputy (congressman in France) "whose political ideas are his electors' ones."

In the countess ' castle , it's essentially light-hearted banter ,without any real surprise , but with a moral ending.
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The bailiff is coming....
5 October 2019
.....and he has ordered all their goods to be seized !

Both ruined bourgeois do not agree and they try to find a way to avoid being depried of their valuable stuff:one of them passes himself off as a lunatic.

Based on a play ,this is a short (39 min)which does not deliver the goods ;the gags are heavy-handed,the playing -with the exception of Tissier- full of histrionics .
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Mathilde: Ursule (1967)
Season 2, Episode 1
7/10
Damsel in distress.
3 October 2019
Second part of the Eugène Sue's melodrama : The unfortunate heroine found a new enemy in the shape of her lovely cousin Ursule :although Ursule is much more attractive than her relative ,she is jealous of her because of her fortune and because,whereas Mathilde married a (ruined) noble ,she had to be content with a (rich) bourgeois ,Séverin .Determined to take her revenge on her cousin,Ursule seduced her husband ,Gontran.Besides, Lugarto ,whom Mathilde's attentive escort,Monsieur De Rochegune ,drove away from Paris ,has just returned and he is ,more then ever ,resolved to possess her.

Lacombe's effective directing,Jean-louis Bory' screenplay ((based on an unreadable novel from the nineteenth century) and a very good cast give this far-fetched story substance .And the movie achieves its aim :the audience pities the poor heroine and heaves a sigh of relief when she eventually finds happiness.
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Mathilde: Lugarto (1967)
Season 1, Episode 1
At midnight,you will be mine !
2 October 2019
A distraught young woman ,Mathilde ,comes back to her old aunt's mansion ;she is in jeopardy ,because her ruined husband wants to sell her to Lugarto, a shady person ;then begins a flashback : Mathilde was once a rich orphan ,rather ugly (which she was not really in the book),a ruined noble,Gontran married her for her fortune .The couple always had an odd friend of Gontran's following them around ,Lugarto who wanted the wife to be his lover.

Why that Lugarto wants to have sex with this totally unattractive woman may puzzle the viewer and it takes all the talent of the actors( Alice Sapricht,André Oumansky) to prevent the movie from becoming ridiculous . The characters are the archetypal melodrama characters : the virtuous wealthy and graceless woman ,her jealous lovely cousin, the nasty old maid ,the hateful husband , his malevolent friend and the damsel in distress's attentive escort who saves her in the nick of time .

This is the first part of this miniseries ,aired in 1967. Jean-Louis Bory wrote a good screenplay ,based on a stodgy book.
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Mathilde (1967)
Les Mystères De Mathilde.
2 October 2019
Let's put it straight :unlike "Les Mystères De Paris" which spawned a lot of movies ,series and made for TV films, "Mathilde ,Mémoires D 'Une Jeune Femme" is impossible to read for the contemporary audience :not only because it was not re-issued when this telefilm was aired,but because the style is frightfully ponderous and there's no characters who can compare favorably with those of "Les mystères";besides the plot is so complicated that the unfortunate reader gets lost in a muddled affair.

We can be thankful to the screenwriters for delivering a solid screenplay ,considering the limitations they were working under ;besides ,director Georges Lacombe had a lot of good movies ("LE DERNIER DES SIX" "LA NUIT EST MON ROYAUME " " LE PAYS SANS ETOILES " ) under his belt when he began to work for TV in the sixties.With a strong cast (Alice Sapricht , Alice Tissot, Genevieve Brunet ,André Oumansky) ,Lacombe pulled it off this preposterous task .It works from start to finish. (for further details,see episodes)
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The last ball
16 August 2019
After a seven-year gap ,it was to be Marc Allégret's swansong ,in a career which spanned more than forty years .Personally,I have always liked his brother Yves 's works best .Some of his most satisfying films remain his literary adaptations : "lac aux dames " " L'Arlésienne" ,"Blanche Fury" ;on the other hand,his attempt at a "lady Chatterley's lover " adaptation failed because the censorship was hard in 1955.

Based on a Raymond Radiguet 's novel ,which is quite the contrary so to speak ;unlike "Chatterley ",it is a chaste story :think " La Princesse De Clèves " -a book which influenced the novelist- in a Great Gasby world ,where the aristocrats would replace the nouveaux riches .

The main asset is the splendid Christian Matras's cinematography whose pictures are a feast for the eye ,with sparkling colors ; Jean-Claude Brialy and Micheline Presles (who was once the heroine of another Radiguet's adaptation by Claude Autant -Lara , "Le Diable Au Corps ") are strong actors ,so is Sacha Pitoeff in the small part of a fallen Russian prince ;the young ones ,Sylvie Fennec and Henri Garcin are both good-looking but not really convincing in a pure psychological drama; Françoise Sagan's dialog does not help.

The 1970 audience was not able to relate to this story of Belle Epoque people who live in luxury and do not seem to be aware there's a world outside ;as for the 2019 viewer ,it might not be very enthusing either;it's not obvious to feel for those snob posh people 's silent cris de coeur .
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Nico, 1988 (2017)
7/10
All yesterday's parties
11 August 2019
"Nico Icon" (1995) ,a documentary, was a movie which could not thoroughly satisfy Nico's fans cause the essential,that is to say,the musical side ,was minimal .Both her short stint with the Velvet Underground and her solo career were botched.This work was centered ,in fact,on the son the artist would have had with French star Alain Delon ,a fact which remains uncertain even today and even though the actor's family did take on the child .

There's a very brief hint at a"French actor" in the 2017 movie. "Nico ,1988" is a different matter ,because it deals with the last months of the artist : a poor epitaph ,a sad and tatty end of a singer who was once associated with one of rock's most influential albums ("the V.U. and Nico°,though gossips keep on repeating her creative role was minor,which is not entirely false)

Based on true accounts from people who were around , "Nico 1988" is a gloomy but credible crepuscular biopic ;it seems that, in the eighties, Nico made an attempt at a more palatable (I would not write"commercial" ) ,more "rock " music ;in the seventies ,she would perform with her harmonium -she notably performed in a cathedral , an ideal background for this ghostly ,spectral music ; the treatment of "all tomorrow's parties ",a song she recorded with the V.U. ,makes her music more accessible and more exciting than the haunting but a bit droning sound (her approach of the German National Anthem was impressive though and John Cale 's production of her cover of the Doors' 'the end' helped );and on her tunes,notably "janitor of lunacy" ,the updating is effective and welcome ;this one effortlessly supersedes the studio version.

She would retain a certain cult in Europa and it shows ,,and her before mentioned son ,Ari , appears and is proud of her mother (the 1995 doc showed a young man who would despise his adoptive mother ,which was off-putting); her choice to perform behind the Iron Curtain was as adequate as the cathedral of the seventies .

Tryne Dyrholm 's performance is perfect;she convincingly portrays a jaded faded singer, ravaged by drugs ; her death is given a very proper treatment.
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Les grands (1936)
Love and theft
9 August 2019
Based on a play ,this melodrama has not worn well ;characters are cardboard ,directing is static ,and even the seasoned actors (Charles Vanel,Pierre Larquey,Gaby Morlay )are not able to enliven the trite screenplay .Only Gilbert Gil ,then at the beginning of his career,plays his game well,cast as the bad sort of the school , a nasty guy who would redeem himself for the finale.

The action takes place in a high school ,a rather gloomy place where the students fight when the bread is delivered :and however,at the time, the boys ,let alone the girls, stood little chance of carrying on their studies in a high school ;all the parents seem wealthy persons anyway.

All is predictable: during Easter holidays ,some students choose to stay in the place :one of them's attitude ,a virtuous brilliant A-student ,puzzles his teachers and the principal ;he actually does not stay to prepare the grande ecole for training of teachers -everybody is sure he will pass the exam-,but for sentimental reasons: he is desperately in love with the principal's wife who, often daydreaming in front of her cage of birds , does not want to cheat on her husband ,and mainly,does not want to ruin the boy's good prospects.A night he calls on her , a theft is committed and he is a suspect ;he stands accused but everybody sides with him, no one wants to believe he's capable of such an infamy.

My Hitchcocometer points sullenly towards zero as far as the suspense is concerned ; only the above- mentioned Gilbert Gil can sustain some interest as the villain ,and considering the limitations he is working under,it's a little feat.Pierre larquey also provides the movie with some passable scenes when he reprimands the bad lot for frequenting seedy places where he often goes too.

The title means "the seniors" ,for in this school ,there are eleven-year old kids as well as young men about to graduate.
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6/10
A boarding-school going mad.
6 August 2019
Not to be mistaken with Chaplin's "a dog's life" .Maurice Cammage is not in the same league,by a long shot !

His field is the coarse comedies , about the joys and pains of the grunts in their barracks ;there are plenty of them ,the titles of which speak for themselves ("La Caserne En Folie "" Les Bleus De LA Marine" "La Mariée Du Régiment" ....); but it was "Trois Artilleurs Au Pensionnat " which took foolishness to new limits: blind drunk , three grunts enter a boarding-school for girls they mistake for their barracks !

In 1941,(not 1943 as the imdb page reads) in an occupied country ,it would have been unthinkable to make people laugh at French soldiers -who had just been defeated -;so the action of this movie took place in a boarding-school for girls ,but without any soldiers.The worst could be expected .

Against all odds,it is not so : it is a pleasant little comedy ,with several riotously funny scenes ;actually it's Fernandel's film ,and when he is good, he can do without a director . The story often goes crazy ,which is fine with me: a bulimic headmaster who keeps on stuffing himself with sandwiches,tarlets and babanas and dies of indigestion, his wife who believes in metempsychosis and thinks that her late hubby is reincarnated as a dog (hence the title) ,a teacher (Fernandel) who teaches everything from maths to music to chemistry,; to make the accreditation inspector believe there are several teachers ,Fernandel has to disguise himself ,a thing he is used to .He goes as far as to dress up as a woman (to pass himself off as the late headmaster's wife to take an exam) and naturally he is wooed by no less than two men a la "Fanfare D'Amour" (remade as " some like it hot").And there's a bubblehead pupil whose stuttering is contagious ,who can't recite Pythagoras' theorema ,who "draws what she sees" ,but who makes a clean sweep of the prizes .There's also a nice musical moment ("Y'a Le Petit Cochon" )when Fernandel and his choir sing a ditty ,some kind of French " old McDonald had a farm".

Never a dull moment and teachers will certainly appreciate the inspector's confining (by mistake) in an insane asylum !
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7/10
A wedding
4 June 2019
The precedent user was right when he hinted at "A Wedding" .The American movie is certainly better ,but with a more comfortable budget,although the French director can boast a cast which would make a lot of his colleagues drool .

Altman's movie and "Pièce Montée" have in common a legendary old actress:Lilian Gish (whose career almost spanned the whole twentieth century) and Danielle Darrieux (born 1917,her career commenced in 1931!any advance?) "Pièce Montée "(tiered cake)is a funny comedy,with some nostalgia and an attack on the bourgeoisie Chabrol would not disown .Its depiction of a wedding in France is marvelously precise ,with all these smug people ,wearing their Sunday's best ,and taking photographs of each other.

Although the movie is rather short ,the screenwriters succeeds in creating a dozen of characters .Jérémie Rénier is wonderful as the groom,apparently happy and self-assured but actually Under his mom's (Dominique Lavanant) thumb and still wondering whether he's made the right choice.Another stand out is Aurore Clément ,a bourgeois sure of herself ,of her faith and of her religion ,who wants the statue of Sainte -Agathe to be removed from the Church during the wedding because she finds it gory ("This is St Agathe Church "says the embittered priest".

This is the depiction of a world crumbling down ,and what happened to the tiered cake (par excellence Le Gateau De Marriage) is a sinister omen .People whose marriage is on the rocks,a groom who does not see his bride anymore as soon as the party begins,a Down's syndrome child one tries to carefully hide on the photographs,a priest ,sick and tired of those ceremonial Christians and tell them so (the scene is a bit heavy-handed and it takes all Jean-Pierre Marielle's talent to make it a winner).

Although Marielle is fifteen years younger than Danielle Darrieux ,their love is thoroughly credible and the only moment when some sunlight does break through-in the middle of the night- Because a long long time ago,these two broke a taboo ,it might allow the others to carry on:the daughter will accept her "new" father ,one of the girls will come out of the closet and the newly-wed might live happily ever after.

Denys Granier-Deferre is Pierre Granier Deferre's son .His father was in the grand tradition of the "Cineme De Qualité " and his works have worn very well.The son displays more bite ,and his movie would deserve more than its unfair rating.
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Tornavara (1943)
Fools gold
3 June 2019
Alternative ending where Sigurd Framrus (Pierre Renoir) dies and is buried by the two lovers (Jean Chevrier and Mila Parély) was written by Jean-Paul Sartre but never filmed (imdb).Not true,by the way.

Why on earth did the writer have to get involved in that business?That this poor flick was given two stars (out of four) by the French Guide Des Films is beyond me.The script is awful,Pierre Renoir overplays so much he is almost unbearable,and the plot looks like a poor man's Zola's "Germinal" ,gold replacing coal.

This is a story of a man exploiting a gold mine in a doomed place called "Tornavara" .His miners often rebel ,to no avail.He's married to a girl who of course could be his daughter.Up comes a handsome young man,Gerard Morhange .You can imagine what comes next.

The summary given by the "Guide Des Films" is not necessarily accurate: the wife does not stay with her husband;this is Sartre's ending (which WAS thus filmed )which is used in the copy I own .Maybe the other ending (the husband does not die and the woman stays with him) was shown in the theaters in 1943,since it was more in accordance with the Vichy ideology.
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The ABC Murders: Episode #1.3 (2018)
Season 1, Episode 3
C
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
B
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
A
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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8/10
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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2/10
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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6/10
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)
6/10
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)
9/10
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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