Tuesday, May 26, 2015

La Vérité sur Bébé Donge

1952, France, directed by Henri Decoin

Another fine film from Henri Decoin, an emotionally brutal tale drawn from a Simenon novel, which begins with a man on his deathbed, in full knowledge that his wife has put him there by means of a poisoned cup of coffee. I haven't read the source novel and while other commentators suggest the book was gutted I don't think you have to look very far to find the author's underlying cynicism about human relations, particularly within relationships, in full flower (Maigret's tender relationship with his wife is the obvious exception in the oeuvre). Although Decoin is no Clouzot, he finds some of the same bone-dry spirit here at times and does an especially fine job in suggesting the depths underneath the facades of both Gabin and Darrieux; Gabin's usual charm is smartly upended through the repeated suggestion that he uses his magnetism entirely thoughtlessly for his own gratification. This film marked Darrieux's "turn" toward less admirable characters -- her 1930s films are pretty lightweight, and these days it's her 1950s films that people turn to most often, especially the Ophuls films.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States