Monday, February 01, 2016

Chotard et compagnie

1933, France, directed by Jean Renoir

Despite the substantial corpus of writing devoted to Renoir, there are few words on this particular film, a surprise as I found it generally charming and technically quite compelling. It occasionally reminded me of Die Koffer des Herrn O.F., especially in the second half, as an entire town buys into a particular obsession (complete with dream sequences). It was really the opening that grabbed me, though, with the first shot part of a long lineage of bravura openers, and the film is mostly made on a set that permits a great deal of easy movement, the camera peering behind corners, through windows, and generally keeping an eye on characters as they move around the space. 

Chotard himself is played by Fernand Charpin, such a key presence in Pagnol's Marseilles trilogy, and he's a delight here, too. The plot is driven by the marriage of Chotard's daughter to an unpromising fellow, a writer played by Georges Pomiès, a name wholly unfamiliar to me, but from his movement it wasn't hard to figure out that he was trained as a dancer, and indeed that this was his primary vocation. He's not a great choice for the part but his background certainly adds an interesting energy to the character, granting him an unexpected and graceful physical presence. As a casting selection, it reminded me a little of the offbeat energy of Jean-Louis Barrault in Drôle de drame, though that's a more successful marriage. Which in turn reminds that I took a reflexive dislike to Pomiès when I discovered that he had won Louis Jouvet's lover Lisa Duncan away from the great actor (though of course she may have been the one who effected the change). 

While the whole thing is based on a pre-existing play, I couldn't help but wonder if there was a reference to Simenon -- with whom Renoir remained friendly after the director adapted one of the Maigret novels -- when the characters discuss an industrial-scale production of literature, of a kind that Simenon himself would have had no trouble keeping up with given his book-a-month rhythm. 

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