Monday, April 01, 2019

Mollenard


1938, France, directed by Robert Siodmak

An assured film from Siodmak's French period, though with a somewhat unusual structure -- it almost feels like two different films, albeit both featuring the same protagonist, with the capacious frame a tale of domestic spite and poison and the inset a rousing sketch of colonial skulduggery in Shanghai (a pretty common backdrop at the time). Harry Baur is in fine form as the titular Mollenard, a merchant marine captain facing ruin and shame, a circumstance that brings every dark aspect of his relationship with his wife, played by Gabrielle Dorziat, to the fore. The film rigs the game somewhat, though, by making Dorziat's character so utterly unsympathetic -- the same rather unpleasant trick Renoir played in La Chienne -- that the audience is cast on the side of the criminal by default. Still, the downbeat ending manages to channel something of the spirit of Quai des brumes, made the same year, with the two films also sharing Eugen Schüfftan as director of photography.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States