Wednesday, October 25, 2017

En cas de malheur


1958, France, directed by Claude Autant-Lara

Based on a novel by Simenon and scripted by the legendary Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost, though it's hardly a career highlight either in behind or in front of the camera (Jean Gabin and Brigitte Bardot, both of whom are barely stretched by their roles, are the focus on the latter side). The film comes across as something like a 1950s French version of The Woman in the Window or The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry, without the restrictions of the American Production Code, though the sourness of the end does suggest a more interesting film could have been crafted by a director less self-consciously provocative than Autant-Lara.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

L'Armoire volante


1948, France, directed by Carlo Rim

After enjoying La Maison Bonnadieu, I went in search of more by Carlo Rim. This feels very much like a Gallic Ealing picture, or at least Ealing on its more macabre days (there are, though, some very non-Ealing touches, such as the setting in a hotel which does a roaring trade in the short-staying customer). Fernandel, in unusually toned-down mode, features as a civil servant who is due an inheritance on the death of his aunt but needs her body in order to make his claim, and said corpse is notable mainly for its absence. There's a quite brilliant sequence in which the legal eagles outline the difference between a mere death -- of little consequence -- and a good, clean, legally-approved death with all its attendant paperwork.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Le Septième juré


1962, France, directed by Georges Lautner

Yet another Bernard Blier film. Like the previous picture, it pairs him with Danièle Delorme, though the film could hardly be more different. It's also a very out-of-type role for Blier, but one of his strongest performances, and the sense of existential disarray is profound -- it reminded me at times of Chabrol's Que la bête meure, perhaps for that sense of bourgeois claustrophobia that is such a strong feature of the later film. It's far stronger stuff, too, than the average Georges Lautner picture and hard not to speculate that the presence of Blier fils as an assistant director had a positive impact on the picture, which is of considerable interest on the visual level, too. 

Monday, October 02, 2017

Sans laisser d'adresse


1951, France, directed by Jean-Paul Le Chanois

Another entry in the Bernard Blier filmography, the actor playing a cabbie who ends up getting more than he bargained for when he picks up a young woman at the Gare de Lyon. Directed by  Jean-Paul Le Chanois, very much a middlebrow fellow, though the use of extensive location shooting here lends a surprising air of pre-nouvelle vague sense of Paris's streets (Pierre Granier-Deferre was one of the assistant directors, though I didn't detect too many signs of his more astringent presence). There's a quite wonderful verbal joust between Blier and Danièle Delorme, with Julien Carette, no slouch with a good line himself, watching on with a wry smile, and there's also a brief, early appearance from Louis de Funès, testing out his grimaces and his hand gestures (the latter are always much more amusing to me than the former). 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

La Maison Bonnadieu


1951, France, directed by Carlo Rim

An enjoyable satire of bourgeois mores, with Bernard Blier as the head of the aforementioned house, dealing with his wife's infidelity. The comic aspects are generally to the fore, though as James Travers notes the (very fine) photography seems to owe more to dramatic, even noir, territory at times -- and several sequences, including those snapshotted here, are very nicely staged from the visual perspective. The direction is by the unfamiliar-to-me Carlo Rim, though on the strength of this film he bears further attention. 



Blier is, predictably, excellent, though Yves Deniaud steals several scenes as his right-hand man, while Berthe Bovy makes a delightful appearance as that rarest of plot devices, the grande-mère ex machina. It's also very interesting for its period in that the film places women squarely as the center of domestic power, without also implying that they are to be feared; Danielle Darrieux sparkles much as one would imagine, with both her wit and her beauty. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Non coupable


1947, France, directed by Henri Decoin

A deeply cynical postwar film -- a category in which there is much Gallic competition -- about getting away with murder, with Michel Simon, playing a doctor, in especially fine form (as was the case with his very different part in the same year's Panique). While not directly about the recently-concluded war and its aftermath, it's hard not to draw inferences about the impact of those events on the French psyche, while Decoin also infuses a hearty dose of Simenon-esque commentary on the bourgeoisie, most obviously in the evening routine of the (male) notables in the local bar. Decoin's work behind the camera provides further evidence that he's a worthwhile addition to the postwar canon. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Le Camion


1977, France, directed by Marguerite Duras


Duras, Depardieu, a truck. That's about it and yet this is an utterly compelling piece of work -- the visual juxtaposition of small, older woman and hulking young man is of course amusing and eye-catching, but so too is their studied verbal pas-de-deux, and the camerawork, especially in the interior scenes, has a lovely warm, limpid quality. Duras comes across as a fierce intellect, in addition to her unmistakable voice.
 

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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.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States