A British playboy in Paris marries a dancer and convinces her to give up her career to move to a small cottage in the country. One night at a party given by her former manager, she is ... See full summary »
Miháli Kertész was in many ways the Austrian Cecil B DeMille and the same delight in whimsy and spectacle softens the edges of his films so that they never have an real bite. But, just like DeMille, he is a fine director who could have made much better films. The scenes towards the end of this film in Brittany, when the relationship between the earnest young diplomat (he is anything but a playboy) and his actress-wife is deteriorating, are superbly done.
These scenes actually have much in common with the similar scenes between Belmondo and Anna Karina in Godard's Pierrot le Fou - Q'est-ce qu'il faut faire, il n'y a rien à faire - and may in both cases owe something to the fact that the actress was also (precariously) married to the director. So although, as the German count quite rightly points out, the basic story of the film is an absolute cliché of silent era films, these scenes stand out as something quite startlingly different that probes deeper than melodrama.
The ending of the film which appears for a moment to be almost obscenely conventional is actually quite a neat double-take.
It is unsurprising that Kertész was one of the exiles who found the move to the US and Hollywood relatively unproblematic. As an Austro-Hungarian, he had always kept his distance from the German film industry and absorbed little of its ethos, his influences always being more Hollywoodian. He lacked DeMille's passion for control (and there was in any case no room for a second DeMille in the US) and remained to the end of his career a totally pragmatic film-maker, fairly indifferent to what films he made and little troubled by the studio system. That he should strike lucky with the rather kitschy romantic classic Casablanca was entirely in the logic of things....but there was something else there (one can see it in the following year's Fiaker Nr. 13 as well) that got lost along the way.
A curious feature of the film is that the actor playing the Vicomte, who is so crucial to the film, would seem to have appeared if IMDb is to be believed,in no other films.