Friday, October 12, 2012

Une Histoire d'amour

1951, France, directed by Guy Lefranc

Louis Jouvet's final film is, sadly, a relatively pedestrian affair for the actor, who died suddenly some months before the film was released; I wonder what other projects he had on the burner? Although the filmmakers attempt to extract some suspense from the flashback structure, this is a pretty straightforward police procedural, the kind of thing handled these days in a 45-minute television episode, and the sequences that recall Clouzot's great Quai des Orfèvres (the shots of the grimy corridors of the police station, Jouvet's interactions with a disapproving boss, indeed the very fact that Jouvet plays a rebellious police inspector) only serve to underline the weaknesses here.

Although the credits bill him top, Jouvet isn't even onscreen for much of the film, which focuses on the relationship between the wealthy Dany Robin and working stiff Daniel Gélin, who is employed by Robin's father (Dany Robin was herself the object of temptation for Louis Jouvet a few years earlier in Les Amoureux sont seuls au monde, a title that might easily have been re-used on this occasion). There's a Romeo-and-Juliet aspect to the youthful lovers, although across class lines rather than those of familial loyalty, and Jouvet's contempt for the haute bourgeoisie is rather enjoyable, particularly when the objects of his contempt seem oblivious to his ironic commentary (he doesn't have much more time for Gélin's ne'er-do-well father, a man allergic to work though not to its potential financial rewards).

I read online that Jean Grémillon, for whom director Guy Lefranc once worked, was originally supposed to take the helm. While Lefranc isn't lacking in competence, it's hard not to wonder what a less prosaic director might have done with the material: there are arresting flashes here and there, whether in the humour of the shot atop this entry, or in the intensity of the close-ups between the two lovers, late in the film, but they're a little lost in the routine of the procedural. One point of note, to my mind at least: in both this and Lefranc's previous collaboration with Jouvet, Knock, there is some striking location work, particularly the opening of this film in a junkyard, that gives both films an extra layer of richness, situating them in recognizably real places that anchor the melodrama and comedy. While obviously location shooting didn't begin with the nouvelle vague later in the 1950s, such well-judged intrusions of the "real world" aren't common in the earlier French films I've seen.

No comments:


List of all movies

Most of the images here are either studio publicity stills or screen captures I've made myself; if I've taken your image without giving you credit, please let me know.

About Me

Boston, Massachusetts, United States